A much-anticipated piece of legislation that makes it illegal to discriminate against gender identity and expression passed the House of Representatives 77 to 62 Thursday evening after more than five hours of debate.
The bill makes certain transgender, transsexual, and any other individual whose appearance or behavior is different from that which is traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or sex at birth receives the same protections under the law as other protected classes such as minorities and women.
“It’s not just about XX or XY chromosomes,” Rep. Linda Schofield, D-Simsbury said. “We shouldn’t be discriminating against people because Mother Nature and God made them differently.”
But some lawmakers were concerned about hypothetical situations. Some wondered if sexual predators dressing like the opposite sex would go into a bathroom in order to abuse young children. This was a scenario proposed by the Family Institute of Connecticut during the public hearing on the bill.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said people shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the bathroom scenario. He asked what would happen if a man with male genitalia who is dressed as a woman wants to use the women’s restroom at a restaurant? What recourse does the restaurant owner have under this legislation? Cafero asked. He said if he doesn’t let the man use the restroom, then this legislation could apply and he could be fined $2,000 or face jail time.
“This law blurs the line,” Cafero said. “This is common sense stuff.”
He said as a second grader he was traumatized when he returned to school after Christmas break and Mrs. Barber was Mrs. Smith because she got married. “To a second grader that was mind boggling,” he said. He wondered what happens if a teacher decides they want to change their sex and continue teaching. He said this legislation would prohibit a school reassigning them to a desk job as they transition from one sex to another.
Rep. Kim Fawcett, D-Fairfield, who described herself as a social moderate and a Christian, said it’s not about violent offenders hurting young girls in bathrooms. She said it’s about setting a high bar against discrimination in the state. She challenged her colleagues to ask themselves, “would my God discriminate against any person because of gender identity?”
She concluded her God would not, but Cafero challenged her characterization, which he said questioned the motives of those opposed to the bill.
In order to win some more support for the bill it was amended to further define how an individual will be able to prove their gender identity and expression in court. Things such as as medical records and treatment of gender-related identity disorder could be offered as proof the gender identity or expression “is sincerely held, part of a person’s core identity, or not being asserted for an improper purpose.”
While some proponents of the legislation were insulted to even have to propose such an amendment, Rep. Gerald Fox, D-Stamford, said he understands it takes time to change attitudes.
“I hope this legislation will help those who have suffered discrimination and give them the chance to live free from fear and intimidation,” said Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, who, as vice chair of the Judiciary Committee, led the fight for passage of the bill.
“In its essence, it prohibits discrimination and offers people protections of their basic rights to use public accommodations,” Holder-Winfield said.