As promised Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, introduced two amendments to a bill that would revise the state’s discrimination statutes to include gender identity and expression. Another Republican lawmaker introduced a third, but each amendment failed and the bill was finally passed by the Judiciary Committee by a 27 to 14 vote Tuesday evening.
One of Kissel’s amendments tried to modify the language in the bill to ensure teachers weren’t transitioning from male to female or female to male during the school year. He argued it could be confusing to school-aged children and instead of heading a classroom during that period of time the teacher could just be reassigned somewhere else in the district.
Rep. Arthur O’Neill, R-Southbury, wanted to make sure a man, who identifies himself as someone with a female gender identity, could not access a homeless shelter run by a religious organization.
One of the bill’s main opponents is the Family Institute of Connecticut.
Rep. Gerald Fox, D-Stamford, said there is a section in the bill that would still allow religious organizations to discriminate against someone they don’t want to serve because of their gender identity.
“Those who cynically deride this civil rights legislation as a ‘bathroom bill’ ignore the great difficulties endured at school, in the workplace, and in the everyday lives of honest, hardworking transgender people,” Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Hartford, said in a statement. “Equal protection under the law should never have been denied to these citizens. This bill’s provisions will produce a great improvement in the lives of many people.”
Some lawmakers felt the legislation was more nuanced than the examples given by opponents.
Rep. John Hetherington, R-New Canaan, said it “pains me in a way to oppose this bill.”
He said as someone who grew up as a fat kid that couldn’t play baseball he has sympathy for the situation this particular class of people find themselves in. However, he said he can’t get past the fact that self-identification of gender identity is what creates a new class.
He said what if one day he decided he wanted to be Native American. “I’d like you to call me Little Wolf,“ Hetherington told the committee. He said just because he identified himself as a Native American, doesn’t mean he should receive the protections of that class.
“It’s a departure from where we have gone in the past,“ Hetherington said of the bill.
The bill adds “gender identity or expression” to the list of protected classes in Connecticut’s antidiscrimination statute, protecting transgender people from discrimination in employment, education, housing, public accommodations and other contexts.
The bill passed 27-14 and now goes to the floor of the House. The legislation is supported by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
“We are thrilled that HB 6599 made it out of the Judiciary Committee with no amendments,” Sally Tamarkin, of the CT Women’s Education and Legal Fund, said. “Legislators are hearing from the very people who would be directly affected by this bill’s passage and we’re looking forward to the next step in securing fairness and equality for CT residents.”
Click here to read more about the debate from the public hearing.