LGBTQ Non-Discrimination in MD: What You Need to Know

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LGBTQ in Annapolis.In recent years, great strides have been made toward granting the LGBTQ community equal rights under the law. Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 began the fight decades ago by establishing a prohibition on discrimination against individuals based on race, color, or sex, etc. But in later years, case law interpreted this act to include a prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to recent polls, in Maryland, 4.2% of adults and 5% of the working adults are part of the LGBTQ community. In addition, 20% of the LGBTQ community is currently raising families. As a result, the State of Maryland has established a number of laws to make sure that this community is protected against discrimination when it comes to employment, housing, and other essential areas of life. Here are some of the advancements made in recent years that you may need to be aware of if you are an employer, landlord, or business owner.

Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014

This Act became effective on October 1, 2014. It established Maryland as one of 17 states (as well as Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.) that have passed laws making it illegal to discriminate against anyone – when it comes to employment, housing, and public accommodations – based on gender identity. Here is a summary of the specifics of this Act.

Employers – An employer may not refuse to hire, fire, or fail to promote, adequately train, or provide benefits to a qualified employee based on their gender identity. In addition, while the employer is allowed to maintain appearance and grooming standards for their business, the employee is legally allowed to dress consistently with their gender identity.

Businesses – If the business is an establishment where the public has access to goods and services (bars, restaurants, hotels, gas stations, retail stores, etc.), it is not allowed to treat a transgender person any differently than any other patron.

Landlords – Rental property owners and managers may not refuse an application form, nor refuse to rent to a transgender person. If the person is a qualified tenant, they must be given the same treatment and consideration as any other potential tenant.

State of Maryland Commission on Civil Rights

Civil rights in Maryland.The Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (MCCR) was established to ensure that Maryland’s anti-discrimination laws are enforced when it comes to housing, employment, state contracts, and public accommodations. Included in the other protected classes like race, religion, or disability, the MCCR also investigates complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Here are some of the specifics and examples for each protected area.


It is the State of Maryland’s policy to provide fair housing to all of its residents and not to discriminate against any member of a protected class. In addition to the MCCR, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires anyone participating in the HUD program to comply with state and federal laws regarding nondiscrimination against anyone based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The following are some examples of illegal, discriminatory behavior as it relates to selling or renting real estate.

  • An owner or manager cannot refuse to show a home to members of the LGBTQ community.
  • An owner cannot lie to an LGBTQ applicant by telling them that a property is no longer available when, in fact, it is still available.
  • If a couple is applying to rent or buy a home, the owner must consider both incomes of the couple – i.e., they cannot refuse to consider one of the applicant’s income because they are LGBTQ.
  • An owner cannot use discriminatory advertisements that directly or indirectly exclude the members of the LGBTQ community.

In addition, it is illegal to harass, intimidate, or display prejudice against anyone housed in the landlord’s property. In other words, once a property is rented, landlords must continue to treat all tenants equally. A landlord may not attempt in any way to make life difficult for their LGBTQ tenants or try to get them to leave by any type of manipulation, aggravation, or intimidation.


Employers in all industries are prohibited from discriminating against people based on their LGBTQ status.

  • An employer cannot discriminate when it comes to hiring, interviewing, firing, recruiting, or setting work conditions for employees.
  • Employment agencies cannot discriminate in their advertisements or pass discriminatory information on to employers. In other words, an employment agency cannot “screen” applicants based on discriminatory criteria, even if the hiring company requests such screening.
  • The media cannot publish ads for job placements that are discriminatory in nature.
  • Labor unions cannot deny membership based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

In short, employers are legally required to treat all employees equally, despite their inclusion in a protected class – including LGBTQ individuals. And if an employee files a complaint against an employer for transgressing anti-discrimination laws, an employer is not allowed to harass, demote, or retaliate against that employee.

State Contracts

The State of Maryland will not enter into a contract with any commercial entity that practices discrimination against protected classes. This includes discrimination in the company’s treatment of its vendors, subcontractors, customers, suppliers, or any discrimination in their employment practices.

Public Accommodations

An establishment that provides public accommodations cannot refuse to serve people based on discriminatory factors. They must treat all individuals equally. Some examples of “public accommodation” types of businesses include:

  • Theatres,
  • Bus Services,
  • Public Surface Areas,
  • Recreation Centers,
  • Public Attractions,
  • Hotels,
  • Restaurants, and
  • Government Buildings.

Furthermore, protected groups must be allowed equal access to restrooms, customer sales, or service areas, and all business entrances and exits.

We Are Here for You!

Whether you are a member of a protected class or an employer, landlord, or business owner, anti-discrimination laws are important for you to be aware of. The lawyers at Smithey Law Group LLC are experienced and very knowledgeable in the area of anti-discrimination laws, and we know how to help you enforce your rights. So if you have questions regarding discriminatory practices that you fear may be happening on your watch as an employer, landlord, or business owner – or if you are a member of the LGBTQ community and believe that you have been the victim of discrimination – call or contact us online today.

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Joyce Smithey, a seasoned employment and labor law attorney, has over 22 years of experience representing both employers and employees in Maryland and D.C. Her practice, rooted in a deep understanding of employment law, spans administrative hearings to federal litigation. Joyce's approach is comprehensive, focusing on protecting client interests while ensuring legal compliance. A Harvard graduate, her career began in Fortune 500 companies, transitioning to law after a degree from Boston University School of Law. Joyce's expertise is recognized by numerous awards, including Maryland’s Top 100 Women. At Smithey Law Group LLC, which she founded in 2018, Joyce continues to champion employment rights, drawing on her rich background in law and business.

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