Maryland's highest court ruled yesterday that the initiative to repeal the portion of a county law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity could not go forward on this year's ballot. Legally, the ruling (which has not yet been published) appears to have been based on technical aspects of election law – whether the proponents collected enough valid signatures (no) and whether opponents met the deadline for challenging the proposal (yes).
Politically, however, this is huge. It allows the law to go into effect, so that if conservatives seeking to challenge it try again in the next election cycle, they will be seeking to repeal a provision which has caused no problems, rather than being able to use the scare tactics that have characterized their arguments. The chances of voters rejecting the repeal initiative should get better with time.
Most important, this ruling averts the risk of a voter repeal of trans protection in a county which is a suburb of Washington, DC. Because of that location, even though it is only a county law, the outcome of any vote would have a disproportionate impact on every member of Congress. Given the debacle last fall over trans inclusion in ENDA, any loss at this time would reverberate at the national level.
A lot of work needs to be done to get a trans-inclusive ENDA through Congress. But yesterday's court ruling in Maryland eliminates the risk of what could have been a major kick in the gut.