When Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee meeting ran long it adjourned before voting on a bill to amend state discrimination statutes to include gender. A vote on the bill will likely happen next Tuesday, and one of its most vocal opponents speculated it probably has enough votes to clear the committee.
As Democratic lawmakers sat in caucus, Family Institute of Connecticut President Peter Wolfgang said he expects the proposal to pass the committee by a wide margin but said the institute intended to lobby against it up until the last minute.
“If we stop this, it won’t be here in the committee,” he said.
Wolfgang stressed the “if.”
The bill does have the support of at least one committee Republican. Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said he continues to support the measure as he has in the past.
But Kissel came to the meeting with some amendments he planned to propose that may make the proposal more palatable to his colleagues.
The amendments came from concerns raised during a public hearing on March 21, he said. Kissel’s first amendment would ratchet up penalties for individuals who posed as transgender for criminal reasons.
While noting the scenario was probably an unlikely one, Kissel said that under his amendment someone convicted of a Class A misdemeanor who was determined to have posed as transgender solely for criminal reasons would instead be convicted of a Class D felony.
During the hearing, Wolfgang relayed to the committee concerns that the measure could stalking victims easier for sexual offenders.
“Nothing would prevent a male sexual predator from pretending he is confused about his sex to gain access to a women’s bathroom or join a female-only fitness club,” he said.
But given the same scenario, Stamford attorney Rachel Goldberg said lawmakers were trying to address unlikely situations.
“What you’re doing is trying to find a rule for something that doesn’t happen,” she said.
Kissel’s other amendment also addressed a concern raised by Wolfgang at the hearing, mainly the effect having a transgender teacher could have on young school children. Under the amendment municipal boards of education would be given the option to temporarily reassign transgender teachers as they undergo transition.
Kissel said it wouldn’t force the boards to make such a reassignment, which would only apply to teachers of elementary-age children, it would merely give them the option. He said that school children themselves may be open to the idea of their teacher undergoing the change but the amendment is really intended to put parents at ease.
“Parents may wish to have that conversation with their children themselves,” he said.
Following the transition teachers would be allowed to return to their position with their new identity, he said.
“At the end of the day I’ve always been supportive of this bill,” he said, despite the new wrinkle he raised to address things said at the hearing.
Meanwhile, fellow committee member Rep. Alfred Adinolfi, R-Cheshire, said even if Kissel’s amendments are adopted, he’d still oppose the measure.
“I think the discrimination bill is discriminatory,” he told colleagues before the meeting. “It’s discriminatory against my grandchildren and my great grandchildren. I don’t want them exposed to that.”
The measure could put businesses like daycares in a bind, Adinolfi said. Employers would now be forced to retain employees who could one day be a man and a woman the next day, he said. That could lead to the business losing customers who don’t want their children exposed to people who change their gender, he said.
The bill needs a lot more work, Adinolfi concluded.
Before the meeting Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield seemed confident the measure had enough votes to clear the committee and said he was looking forward to getting it out to the floor. But that will have to wait. It’s likely the measure will be addressed at the committee’s next meeting on Tuesday.