COLLEGE PARK, Md. (DC News Now) — Patricia Washington has felt the sting of discrimination, but she never would have thought she’d lose her job and home to it.
So when new Maryland Attorney Anthony Brown announced that he was seeking legislation that would grant his office more powers to bring civil rights cases (and even big class-action lawsuits), Washington was thrilled.
“I’m thrilled to support any effort that will allow us homeowners to have a safety net when something happens like what happened to me,” said Washington, who lives in Prince George’s County.
Washington said she lost her job to discrimination. She said when she was not able to pay her mortgage, her home was foreclosed on in a process she said was unfair.
There was no question in her mind that the civil rights legislation being sought after by Brown would have helped.
“Had I got to an attorney general, the one that he preceded or current, and he had the ability to do something about it, we would have a different outcome,” Washington said.
Brown is seeking legislative authority in the General Assembly to expand civil rights enforcement. That means more investigative powers and a beefed-up unit under his scope of influence that could lead to charges in mortgage lending and other illegal discrimination.
Brown said he wants to stamp out discrimination against anyone who experiences it and have the power to enforce federal and state civil rights laws that he currently does not have.
“Regrettably, we see discrimination where we are depriving Marylanders of rights and opportunities simply because of who they are and that’s wrong,” he said.
Washington filed a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights which currently investigates complaints. She lost $290,000 in equity in her foreclosed home because, she said, the home was sold in 90 days without options to help her keep it.
“The civil rights component in the state didn’t get anywhere,” she said. “So I was blocked in every area.”
Tonya Sweat, Washington’s attorney, said she’s grateful for Brown’s efforts.
“My only question is, what took so long?” Sweat asked. “In order for Maryland to ensure equality for all of its people, this should have been in place years ago.”
Elizabeth Johnson said she also lost her Maryland home and could have used legal intervention,
“It’s all about red lining and predatory loans,” Johnson said. “The discrimination and the part where the attorney general can help us is to start making these judges rule lawfully.”
Washington said she sees hope for others.
“To see this happening, shedding some light on others like myself and folks who at this time should still have as they retire, my home, my dream, my American dream,” she said.