Gender Identity and Expression Bill Moves Forward in Connecticut
March 28, 2011
This guest post comes from HRC Board of Directors member Meghan Stabler.
Five years after it was first proposed, a bill prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and expression was once again the subject of a legislative hearing in Connecticut last week. HB 6599, “An Act Concerning Discrimination,” would add “gender identity or expression” to Connecticut’s antidiscrimination statute, thus protecting transgender people from discrimination in employment, education, housing, public accommodations and credit.
Similar bills in the past had passed both the Judiciary Committee and the Senate yet died in the state House of Representatives. This past Monday the Connecticut legislature's Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the bill.
Speaking in favor of HB 6599 were residents of Connecticut who identify as transsexual, transgender and genderqueer and gender-variant. Dozens of allies, students and parents of transgender people, as well as organizations such as the Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition, GLAD, True Colors LGBT Advocacy Group, Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign, members of the clergy and many others provided compelling, firsthand experience and fact-based reasons why this bill should move forward.
Of course as with any progressive cause, there were some in opposition. However, during the hearing that lasted more than 11 hours there were only two in opposition. Peter Wolfgang, president of Family Institute of Connecticut, took to the table in front of the Judiciary committee and testified that bill was a “radical assault” on privacy that would allow “men” to don a dress with the purpose to prey on women and children in restrooms. We’ve heard that before, right? The members of the Judiciary were quick to ask for proof from other jurisdictions with similar laws. Chairman Rep. Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, held Mr. Wolfgang accountable, and it was soon obvious that there was no evidence that anti-discrimination laws have ever led to predatory criminal behavior in public restrooms.
I need to extend my thanks to everyone who testified, and to especially point out that my friend, Jennifer Levi of GLAD not only gave wonderful testimony but also eloquently responded to a multitude of questions and scenarios posed by the committee.
Senator Coleman, the Judiciary co-chair, said it best, “The struggle for civil rights is an ongoing effort that will never end until all human beings are treated with respect, and granted an equal opportunity to pursue their happiness, regardless of race, creed or gender identity, there must be equal protection for all under the law.”
Governor Malloy has been a longstanding supporter of this legislation and conveyed to the committee that he very much looks forward to signing it.
I traveled from Texas at the invitation of ctEQUALITY to testify at the hearing and to bring both a national and a business perspective to discussion of the non-discrimination bill. It was an honor to do so on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign and the citizens of Connecticut.
Read all the written testimony from the hearing. If you would like to watch the testimony you can view it online. It’s very long, but I encourage you to watch what you can so you can see the incredible testimony that was offered along with the superb questioning by the committee.
I want to end this highlighting my praise for on-the-ground coordinators and leaders like Sally Tamarkin of ctEQUALITY. She has an amazing spirit and tremendous energy, and along with others arranged a full day of compelling, analytical and personal testimony. Congratulations Sally and team.
There is still no absolute guarantee of this bill passing, so residents of Connecticut should continue to follow up with their local legislators, making sure their allies and co-workers and request a YES vote in favor of this bill as written.
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