A bill that would have protected individuals from discrimination based on their gender identity and expression didn’t make it out of the Judiciary Committee last week, but proponents of the bill remained optimistic Tuesday.
“This has been a rough session,” Jennifer Levi, a lawyer with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said. “But the session isn’t over.”
Levi and dozens of other advocates gathered at the Legislative Office Building Tuesday to lobby legislators and help them understand the importance of the bill.
Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, said it’s as simple as asking yourself, “Do you or do you not chose to discriminate against people.” He said if you’re in favor of this legislation then you don’t chose to discriminate.
“These are our neighbors, these are our friends, these are human beings,” Holder-Winfield said. He said he would continue to fight for the legislation because he thinks its important.
Rep. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, another proponent of the bill said “only when people feel protected in their workplace can they be who they really are.”
Jerimarie Liesegang, the founder of the Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition, said getting this type of legislation passed is always a struggle, but it can be done.
In 2004 gender identity and expression were added to Connecticut’s hate crimes law, which passed with a vote of 139 to 4 in the House and 33 to 0 in the Senate.
In 2007 lawmakers in four committees and the state Senate cast 80 votes in favor of adding gender identity and expression to the state’s non-discrimination laws, but the bill never came up for a vote in the House. In 2008 the bill passed the Judiciary Committee with a vote of 37 to 6. This year time ran out before the committee was able to vote on the bill.
“It’s going to take time. This is a tough year,” Liesegang said.
Just because it didn’t make it out of committee, doesn’t mean the bill is dead, she said.
The Family Institute of Connecticut and its supporters are claiming victory for the defeat of the bill saying in an email to supporters, “We beat ‘transgender’ special rights—even after they tried to dress it up as another bill.”
Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute, told supporters at the Capitol Tuesday that they should tell their legislators to make sure this bill doesn’t crop up again this session. “You don’t want Mr. Jones to show up as Mrs. Jones,” Wolfgang said.
But Elaine Warren the parent of a transgender son said “there is no alternative to being yourself,” and thinks the bill is a “no brainer.”
Levi said only a narrow segment of the population opposes this type of legislation.
“These are not complicated issues. They are simple for children to understand,” she said. Levi said she went to have lunch with her six year old son at school one day and another child asked why his father came to have lunch with him. She said her son told the child that it was his mother, not his father. The child said it had to be his father because she looked like a man. She said her son told that other child that there were also men that looked like women and that was the end of the conversation.