Connecticut House Passes Transgender Rights Bill

HARTFORD, CT (AP / CBSNewYork) – The House of Representatives approved legislation late Thursday that provides protections from gender identity discrimination under Connecticut law.

WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau With Opponent St. Rep. Vincent Candelora

The bill would include “gender identity or expression” as a protected characteristic along with race, national origin, sex and other attributes under current state law. It now moves to the Senate for further action.

State lawmakers voted 77 to 62 in favor of the bill, following five hours of debate that touched on such issues as employment law and whether pedophiles might be encouraged to misuse the law to track down young girls in women’s restrooms.

Proponents said the legal protections are needed to help a small group of people who’ve experienced discrimination regarding employment and housing matters.

“It is a reality, and there are members of our community who face this crisis in their own lives and all we’re doing tonight is saying that it’s not our place as a society to discriminate against those people.

It’s not our place as a majority of the population to decide that they are not entitled to the same rights and privileges that the rest of us enjoy,” said House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden.

As the father of six-year-old daughter, St. Rep. Vincent Candelora says he has a concern. His child is too old to accompany him into a public restroom for men. So, if the two are out a restaurant, for example, he generally walks her to the ladies room and waits outside. What if, he wonders, she should be exposed to a male transgender in the bathroom.

“..and exposed to seeing, you know, male genitalia and as a result of that, it’s going to spark a conversation that I don’t necessarily think that my daughter is emotionally ready for,” he tells WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau.

Candelora admits the scenario is remote, but he believes the law, as written, is just too vague and he cast his vote against it.

But much of the debate focused on the potential for people to abuse the legislation.

Rep. Christopher Coutu, R-Norwich, said he worries that male pedophiles will become emboldened by the legislation and try to gain access to women’s restrooms. He said the legislation could prove disastrous.

The House narrowly defeated an amendment, proposed by Republicans, which would have created some exemptions under the law. For example, separate bathrooms based on gender and locker rooms would have been exempted. Some legislators said the bill created a potential hardship for business owners, especially those with public restrooms. Members of the Family Institute of Connecticut, a conservative group that dubbed the legislation “the bathroom bill,” sent numerous emails to legislators, warning how the bill could be abused by peeping toms and sex offenders.

The amendment failed on a 67-62 vote.

In attempt to quell some concerns, the bill was amended with language that allows a court to seek evidence of person’s gender identity issues, such as medical history, to determine if they’ve been discriminated against. The amendment passed on a voice vote. The bill defines gender identity or expression as a person’s gender-related identity, appearance of behavior, even if that identity is different from what’s traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or sex at birth.

The legislation has been a perennial bill for years. Proponents are optimistic about its chances this year, however, because Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he’d sign the bill into law.

At times, Thursday’s debate was emotional, graphic and personal. One lawmaker, Rep. Richard Roy, D-Milford, spoke of a male cousin who decided last year to become a woman.

“I’m going to support (the bill) with the hope that we all move forward from tonight and treat all of our fellow human beings with a little respect, with no scorn and perhaps we can find some love,” he said.

Rep. Linda Scholfield, D-Simsbury, a health care consultant, provided her fellow lawmakers a detailed explanation of how people can be born with gender assignment issues, such as a mismatched mental gender and physical gender, or mismatched genitalia.

“We shouldn’t discriminate against people just because Mother Nature or God made them differently,” she said.

But Rep. Steven Mikutel, D-Griswold, who opposed the bill, said he worried about how students could be emotionally impacted if their teacher one day changed his or her gender.

“I have nothing against what people do in the own homes but when it impacts society, when it impacts children in particular, we must be careful that we are not turning the norms of society upside down to protect the small class of individuals’ desire to be different, to express themselves differently,” he said.

Jerimarie Liesegang, a transsexual woman and director of the Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition, told legislators this year that a survey taken in the greater Hartford area found half of transgender people interviewed said they had experienced employment discrimination. More than 40 percent said they’ve experienced housing discrimination.

At least 13 states have passed similar legislation.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • RichieT

    It certainly didn’t take as long as the 19th Amendment took to get ratified. It was introduced to congress, in 1878, It was ratified, August 18, 1920. 42 years.
    19th Amendment;
    “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation”.
    It takes 36 states to approve an amendment before it’s ratified. The last state to ratify it, was Mississippi. That finally happened, March 22, 1984. That’s 64 years, after it became a legal amendment to the Constitution’
    Do the math. That’s 106 Years
    Can you say SEXIST!!!!!!!!!!!.
    We’ve come a long way since then.

  • Karena

    @Nick Ah, the ultimate Darwinist. You are welcome to refuse medical care the next time you need it, and die as a result. You DO like Nature, don’t you?

    The rest of us aren’t interested in your version of society. We like our science, medicine, and laws.

    • Uninsured

      Karena: As I don’t have health insurance, medical care is refused to me. Don’t be so bourgeois. Approximately 30% of Americans have no health care; state insurance programs only apply to families with less than $ 14,500 income. Transgendering iis fine, but remember that it is a PRIVILEGED option; the person MUST have the money to pay for the elective surgery!

      • Alisha Gray

        I’m trans and poor, with no health insurance (not that most insurance covers NON-elective trans surgeries anyway), and earn too much to apply for state insurance programs… there’s resources out there to help people in my situation though. I am able to get my hormones for around $8/month, I buy clothing at Goodwill, and I support myself. No cushion, no privilege, and started way too young to take advantage of any kind of male privilege.

    • Nick

      Sure you like it. You like it when us working taxpayers pay for it. I repeat: Stupid.

  • TransInsight Canada

    What is wrong with kids learning that not everyone is the same? What is wrong with kids learning that their teacher has an unusual medical condition? Are we afraid our children might learn about something their parents don’t understand?
    For a transsexual, transitioning to the opposite sex is not a choice any more than insulin is choice. It is an excepted medical treatment, and helps trans people a great deal.

    Should we stop diabetics from using the bath room in case our kids see them self injecting? Do we worry about our kids thinking its ok to use heroin as a result? Do we worry about them asking their parents why?

    Furthermore, if we say that trans women can’t use the lady’s room, we are saying that trans men can’t use the men’s room. That creates a much more dangerous scenario because we make it normal to see people who look like men (i.e. beards and deep voices) in the women’s bathroom. That makes it much easier for ANY man to walk in unchallenged.

    We need to let people use the bath room by the gender they present. Doing otherwise simply overcomplicates what we all want, a safe place to pee.

    • Gwen

      in some places, people HAVE actually initiated law suits against mothers nursing in restrooms, so it would NOT surprise me that goldbricks would do the same for those injecting insulin ((after all, they must be druggies! no?))

  • Gwen

    Maybe if they would distinguish between transsexuals and transgenders , ….

  • Anonymous

    Congrats to Connecticut for having insightful representatives. However, some of the quotes in this article still leave me shaking my head in disbelief. Transexuals are not pedophiles and most of us live our lives not in the shadows of society but rather within it. I have worked for 37 years as a productive taxpaying citizen. For all you know I may be living next door to you. I don’t tell people what I am for fear of physical harm or rejection and if my boss found out and I was fired for it, would that be fair? That is what this bill provides….

  • JD

    Well you wee allowed to use this resource.

  • Nick

    Stupid laws for stupid people.

    If they’re that stupid that they don’t know what sex they are, they too stupid to be of any contribution to society. Stop wasting resources on stupid people.

    • Jessica Evans

      4.0 TG student. And no, I am not majoring in a soft field, I am majoring in computer science. I guess I am an idiot though, somehow, and look forward to prolonged difficulties finding work due to the attitudes of people like you.

    • JADE

      really…and what makes you smart? Laws are wrtitten to protect people and not based on any intellectual guidelines, otherwise you wouldn’t be protected by any of the laws as you are obviously unintelligent with little to contribut to a serious subject.

      • Nick

        What’s to protect? Let Nature take it’s course. You DO like Nature, don’t you?

    • Alisha Gray

      Actually no.

      The majority of trans* people are intelligent and creative. Many of us gravitate toward the arts and sciences. Look up Jennifer Finney Boylan, for instance ~ she was a college professor and is now a well-known writer.

      Sorry that doesn’t fit into your worldview, man.

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