A key Maryland Senate panel approved a transgender protections bill on Saturday.

The Judicial Proceedings Committee OK'd the measure with a 7 to 4 vote.

After its 86 to 52 win in the House, the measure, which would ban discrimination based on gender identity in the areas of employment, housing and credit, moved to the Senate, where it was assigned to the Rules Committee, considered an unorthodox move and a death sentence for the measure.

After some lobbying from supporters, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller agreed to transfer the bill to the Judicial Proceedings Committee, where similar versions of the bill were previously considered.

Several transgender activists have opposed the bill for not providing protections for public accommodations, generally the most controversial provision of such laws.

At a hearing on Thursday, opponents testified that such a law would hurt children.

“If you vote yes on this bill, it will be abundantly clear to every one of your constituents that you do not care about the children of Maryland and you do not care about the children – our youngest most vulnerable and defenseless citizens who also have rights,” one opponent told lawmakers.

Added another, “Children will then have to defend their birth femininity or masculinity and they will be discriminated against if they attempt to be the boy or the girl they were born to be.”

“You're looking at transgender teachers and you're looking at an agenda that is rolling out into the school systems that seeks to affirm transgenderism as normal and positive. Children will be encouraged to cross dress.” (A video compilation is embedded in the right panel of this page.)

The bill now moves to the Senate, which holds its final legislative day of the 2011 session on Monday. Supporters will fight back proposed amendments to the bill. Any alterations to the measure at this late date would kill the effort for the year.