By John Clarke
ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (Reuters) - Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley on Thursday signed into law a bill banning discrimination against transgender people, the latest in a series of progressive measures approved by the Democrat.
The measure prohibits discrimination on matters relating to housing, employment, credit and use of public restrooms, the latter of which drew fire from Republican opponents who labeled the measure a "bathroom bill."
"The way this poorly-crafted law was written, allows a man, who sincerely believes in his heart that he is a woman, to have access to the bathroom, changing room, or locker room where there are women and little girls," said Kathy Szeliga, a Republican member of the state's House of Delegates. "This is just not right."
Republican opponents have launched a drive to try to repeal the measure via a ballot initiative.
O'Malley called the measure an "important step to protect the dignity and equal rights of all Marylanders."
U.S. attitudes on transgendered people, who identify as belonging to a gender not represented by their born physical characteristics, are showing signs of changing.
Maryland is the 18th U.S. state to pass a law protecting transgender people from discrimination and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Sunday said the military should review its ban on transgendered people serving in its ranks.
Maryland has increasingly passed liberal policies during O'Malley's eight years as governor. In 2012, the state legalized same-sex marriages and passed The Dream Act, a law that provides benefits for illegal immigrants. Last year, legislators repealed the death penalty and passed some of the toughest gun laws in the nation.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Tom Brown)