REPORT ON BILLS FAVORABLY REPORTED BY COMMITTEE

COMMITTEE:

Judiciary Committee

File No.:

Bill No.:

HB-5597

PH Date:

3/24/2006

Action/Date:

JF 3/27/06

Reference Change:

 

TITLE OF BILL:

AN ACT CONCERNING DISCRIMINATION.

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Betty Gallo & Co.

 

REASONS FOR BILL:

To extend statutory protections against discrimination to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or expression and to bar such discrimination in employment, housing accommodations, and several other contexts as well.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Mayor Dannel P. Malloy, City of Stamford and Diane Farrell, Westport - Civil rights are positive legal prerogatives; the right to equal treatment before the law. Transgendered people face serious discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations. All too frequently, transgendered people are fired the moment their employers learn of their background. They are often targeted as they try to find a place to live and are regularly asked to leave restaurants, hotels, stores, medical facilities and educational institutions. No one should lose their job or be denied a place to live because of their gender identity or expression.

Natasha M. Pierre, Associate Legislative Analyst, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women - Discriminatory acts against transgender individuals are about gender and social expectations about gender. One's gender identity and expression is a personal and private matter. No one should lose a job or be denied entry into school because of the prejudices of others. By including gender identity and expression in Connecticut's antidiscrimination laws, the legislature reaffirms the principle that people in our state may work and live without fear of discrimination, and reminds those who commit illegal acts out of prejudice that our society deplores their behavior and will not tolerate it.

R. Hamisi Ingram, Executive Director, Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) - The bill essentially codifies a Declaratory Ruling in the matter of John/Jane Doe, which the commissioner issued on November, 2000. In that ruling, the commission held that discrimination based on gender identity or expression would violate Connecticut's ban on sex discrimination. Adding to the statute specific language with respect to gender identity or expression simply underscores the state's commitment to all of its citizens.

CHRO also supports the provision in the bill that would add “sexual orientation” to the class bases set forth in Connecticut's deprivation of rights statute (CGS 45a-58(a)). Its purpose is to give full meaning to the decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court in CHRO v. Board of Education of the Town of Cheshire, 270 Conn. 665 (2004). There, the court held that the commission, through section 46a-58(a), could investigate complaints of discrimination filed by students against their school districts.

While discrimination against students based on sexual orientation is prohibited in our education statutes, in order to reach that statute, section 46a-58(a) needs to be amended to include sexual orientation as well. Recent studies have shown that a good deal of discrimination to which a student might be subjected in school is based on sexual orientation, or perceived sexual orientation. These studies show that such discrimination is much more prevalent in the schools than is discrimination based on race or ancestry.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Anonymous constituent (submitted by Rep. Melissa Olson, 46th Dist) - I am submitting this testimony to you as an anonymous constituent for the simple reason that one of my family members experiences discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

This legislation is important to me because I am the mother of a transgender person. My 30 year-old former daughter is transitioning to a male identity after many years of deep personal questioning of his birth gender. As his mother and as a teacher in the Connecticut public school system, I am keenly aware of the difficulties that nonconformity presents in our society, and people who identify and express themselves in any different manner are a target for discrimination and even serious bodily harm. My son pays the price of discrimination many times over in both subtle and outright ways each day. He has dealt with it in housing, employment, social services, and with basic medical needs.

Above all, my family recognizes the very real safety concerns that gender nonconforming people face on a daily basis in our society. Adding “gender identity and expression” will provide my son with some of the support he will need to pursue his career and make a contribution to the legal and business community.

Amy E. Miller, Program & Public Policy Director, Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund - While the CHRO v. Cheshire Board of Ed ruling covers discrimination based on gender identity and expression, it is not considered explicit coverage because it isn't clear from reading the law that transgender people are covered. Making this clarification will send a clear message that discrimination in all of its forms will not be tolerated in Connecticut.

Currently, 29% of the country (by population) has a discrimination law that clearly covers transgender people, including the states of California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Rhode Island and over 80 localities.

Anne Stanback, Executive Director, Love Makes a Family - While it should no longer be legal because of a ruling by the state's CHRO, codification within our antidiscrimination statutes will give additional protections and security to a group of citizens who continue to face intense bigotry from many quarters. Transgender people live and work in our communities. They are not asking for special rights; they are only asking to be treated fairly.

Pamela Heller, Policy Intern, Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence - At each level, the risks for discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people abound. This bill takes the only possible moral and ethical stance of prohibiting such discrimination. Much of this bill addresses employment discrimination, and this is significant for victims of domestic violence. Economic resources greatly impact the ability of a victim to leave an abusive partner. Access to employment is a first step for many individuals who wish to escape violence in the home, and this bill would make it considerably more feasible for gender-variant people to find jobs.

Alix Simonetti, Human Rights and Responsibilities Section, Connecticut Bar Association - This bill would extend statutory protections against discrimination to claims of discrimination based upon gender identity or expression. It would bar gender identity or expression discrimination in employment, in housing and in public accommodations, as well as in several other contexts.

The Doe Declaratory Ruling (p.20) concluded that "prejudice and bigotry unfortunately are still prevalent in our society and they are facts to which we cannot close our eyes and pretend they do not exist." The Commission's Declaratory Ruling held that discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression would violate Connecticut's ban on sex discrimination. Adding to the statute specific language with respect to gender identity or expression clarifies the statute to all readers and confirms the State's commitment to all of its citizens.

Jerimarie Liesegang, Director, Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition - Sadly, on far too frequent a basis, we receive calls from Transgender people who are or have been discriminated against: be it in Employment Housing or by Service Providers, to name a few. From both a priori and empirical studies from various states: it is well known that discrimination against Transgender people is rampant. These studies reveal that over 50% of transgender persons experience discrimination based on their gender identity or expression and for the remaining fortunate enough to be employed most realize annual salaries of less than $15,000; that housing discrimination based on their gender identity or expression exceeds 40%; that nearly 50% lack any type of health insurance and over 40% are never able to finish high school due to discrimination, and this list sadly goes on.

Riki Wilchins, Executive Director, Gender Public Advocacy Coalition - Discrimination against employees because they don't fit someone's ideal for masculinity or femininity remains common in the workplace. The Gender Public Advocacy Coalition believes that one should lose their job or be denied a place to live because of their gender identity or expression. We are encouraged by the seven states, 75+ cities and municipalities, 52 colleges and universities and 104 major corporations which apparently agree and have already added gender identity and expression to their nondiscrimination laws or policies.

Jennifer L. Levi, Senior Staff Attorney, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders - The need to protect people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression is great. Connecticut need not fear that by prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and expression it will be entering into uncharted territory. Instead, Connecticut will join the growing number of state and local governments that have already recognized that preventing discrimination based on gender identity and expression is both necessary and desired and therefore should be addressed explicitly in law.

The purpose of non-discrimination laws is at least two-fold. One purpose is to create a vehicle for preventing and redressing discrimination against vulnerable and targeted communities or individuals. Because this bill codifies existing law, it serves this purpose by clarifying that Connecticut law prohibits discrimination against transgender persons. A second and no less important purpose is to establish a clear statement of public policy in favor of equal treatment of transgender persons. By making this policy clear, the law helps to discourage discrimination and to limit the need for the enforcement mechanisms in place.

Kathryn Caristo, Graduate Student, UConn School of Social Work - I am aware that transgendered individuals are not always afforded the same basic opportunities that I and other Connecticut residents enjoy. Gender identity and expression, as it manifests in appearance or behavior, is not an effective measure of employment and/or academic performance. Furthermore, gender expression and identity bare no significance when predicting the ability of individuals to successfully acquire housing. Consideration of these factors in employment, education and housing serves only to promote discrimination.

Loren Krywanczyk, Student, Yale University - It is exhausting to bear the burden of constantly teaching, of explaining discrepancies between my legal documentation and the way in which I am perceived, and of dealing with infantilization from people who (however subconsciously) treat me as though I am a fifteen-year-old boy even when they know I am 21 years old. I can certainly attest that the codification of the protection of individuals on the basis of gender identity and expression would be of immense value in affirming support for not only transgendered people but for anyone non-normatively gendered or aesthetically androgynous. It will be a crucial step towards sparing us the daily struggles that accumulate and divert our energies from the places where they are most productively and importantly spent.

Maria C. Hernandez, Graduate Student, UConn School of Social Work - Within my profession, I have worked with youth that have had gender identity issues due to being born hermaphrodites. These children were made fun of in school by their peers, they were made to feel as outcasts as they did not know which locker room they should change in or which sports to try out for and were then referred to supposed professionals that did not know how to even begin to approach the problem due to the rarity of the cases.

Nonetheless, no matter how rare the cases may seem, or how often we do or do not encounter a hermaphrodite, they are real people, with real feelings that do not deserve to be discriminated against simply because of their gender identity, or lack thereof.

Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality - Recognizing the need to curb rampant discrimination, eight states, the District of Columbia and 79 cities and counties across the country have already passed explicitly transgender-inclusive anti-discrimination law. These laws currently cover 31% of the U.S. population.

Rachel Goldberg, Esq., Chairperson, Board of Directors, Gender Public Advocacy Coalition - We are here today seeking justice in the form of an amendment to the Connecticut General Statutes which will provide explicit protections for individuals who may be victims of discrimination because of their gender identity or expression. We believe that these issues are a part of a larger civil rights struggle for basic fundamental human rights - freedom, human dignity and justice.

As an attorney practicing law in Connecticut I have represented a number of transgender individuals who were threatened with the loss of their jobs because they decided to transition. Prior to the year 2000 every one of those clients lost their jobs.

I am also employed by the city of Stamford Urban Redevelopment Commission as its general counsel. A few years ago I became the first employee of the city to publicly transition on the job. In contrast with the experience of the clients I mentioned earlier, my experience has been very positive. Almost without limitation everyone with whom I interact in the performance of my job has been accepting and/or supportive, be they politicians (local, state or federal - from both sides of the aisle); government employees; consultants; contractors; and ordinary citizens. I am hopeful that with the passage of this bill, everyone covered by this law will enjoy a similar experience.

Stephanie M. Marnin, Director, UConn Rainbow Center- In my work at the university, I regularly hear the stories of students, faculty, staff and community members that do not fit within rigidly defined categories of male and female. Some folks identify as transgender, some do not. Some consider themselves to be gay or lesbian, but many do not. This bill will protect them all, whether in the context of employment, education, housing or credit.

Brianna Johnston, Hartford, CT - There is a sickening prejudice in our country against gender dysphoric individuals, which must be remedied by legislation. This prejudice forces us to hide our past for fear of losing our loved ones, our jobs and even our lives. In July 2003, I was President and CEO of a new reinsurance company. That was the last time I worked and I believe that, if this legislation were in place, I would now be employed. I've been one of the fortunate few who have the financial ability to successfully hide my past, though I would rather not. Prejudice clearly exists, because the one place I cannot hide is in my profession, which is few in number and where my resume is recognizable.

Alice Pritchard, Executive Director, Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund - While our organization has received calls from transgender people regarding housing and work discrimination situations, more recently we have seen an increase in calls from school social workers or administrators about transgender students' rights. It is not clear to the schools that gender variant students are protected under current Connecticut law. School is already a difficult place for youth without adding ambiguity about their rights. This bill makes clear that existing law protects transgender people. Another area of this legislation that is important to students and schools is that this bill would add "sexual orientation" to the class bases set forth in Connecticut's deprivation of rights statute.

David Panke, Vernon - I must pretend to be someone who I am not to avoid problems in the workplace. Currently, Connecticut statutes offer protections for differences in race, religion and sexual orientation, but there are no clear laws to protect me and other transgender individuals, from being discriminated against because our gender identity or expression does not, fit within the two choices of man or woman. When I am out in our society there is no clear law to protect me from being denied public services or accommodations because of who I am. If I appear too different, if I cannot be clearly identified as a man or woman, I am open to discrimination. And if I am open to discrimination, then my children and partner are open to the same discrimination, because we are a family. This is not fair to me, or my family.

Irwin Hausman, Board Member, Connecticut Region of the Anti-Defamation League - A critical element of Anti-Defamation League's mission of seeking justice and fair treatment for all people compels us to combat-bias and discrimination in whatever form it takes and against whomever it may be directed. Others here today will describe in greater detail how individuals are discriminated against simply because they do not meet societal expectations of what it means to be a man or woman. In our experience, discrimination against any individual or group of people not only hurts the individuals it targets, but negatively impacts the environment in which it arises and the community as a whole.

Kasha Ho, Program Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee- We support transgender rights and struggles for equality, and we look forward to seeing these rights upheld by the passing of this anti-discrimination legislation. Right now in Connecticut it is legal for employers to discriminate against my partner, Micah, because of his gender identity. When we look for a home together, we are not protected against housing discrimination. We know from the life experiences of others in the Trans community that discrimination is the hard reality for those who have the bravery and strength to express their true identities.

Linda Estabrook, Executive Director, Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective - It is of benefit to all of Connecticut to assure that none of us are discriminated against.

Lorenzo Jones, African-American Community Organizer, Hartford, CT - Anyone who has ever lived outside society's made-up definition of "normal" knows that people don't always respect what they don't understand. If we don't put the pressure on society to make room for everyone, sooner or later, we'll find ourselves getting squeezed out next.

Sara Ferah, Concerned Citizen - Separate is not equal and separate rules for each sex are unfair and unequal. All I want now is to have some basic rights. The right to wear a skirt, the right to wear make-up, and the right to have a name that ends in the letter "a." If there had been a law that protected Gender Identity and Expression when I was in college, then I would have been able to be anything. Until this does become the law, I am lucky if I can just find a job at all.

Urania Petit, Hartford - I personally believe that the clarification of our laws is extremely important. It allows people who are vulnerable to discrimination to be aware of the scope of the law and it will also educate individuals like me about the law. I know this law will not make people love the transgender community but what this law will do it will send an important message about treating people with respect.

Donna M. Loglisci, City and Town Clerk, City of Stamford

Regina S. Dyton, Windsor - The lack of inclusion of transgender people in non-discrimination statutes is nothing less than uncivilized. If we are civil people, we will insist that civil rights be guaranteed to all of our citizens.

John DiBiase, Jr.

William Mulready

Kevin B. Logan

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Deacon David W. Reynolds, M.P.A., Legislative Liaison, Connecticut Catholic Conference- First, I would like to make it clear that the Church does not in any way support violence or harassment against any individuals having gender identity issues. All individuals have a right to live a life free from threats of violence or persistent harassment. Current hate crime statues in Connecticut already provide these individuals such protections. However, this bill goes far beyond protecting individuals from violence and harassment. This proposed legislation would raise a cluster of various sexually related orientations, such as transsexualism and transvestism, to a protected class. Establishing gender identity as a protected class raises many issues.

If gender identity is established as a protected class, all persons within our state would be forced to accept, and support, the transsexual lifestyle. Many people of faith would be forced to violate their religious beliefs. Employers would have no discretion in the hiring of a transsexual person or removing that person from employment. If that employer found that person's behavior related to their gender identity to be negatively impacting their business, or disruptive to other employees, no action could be taken to alleviate the situation. Religious employers also would not be able to consider a person's behavior related to their gender identity, even if it violated their religious beliefs. Schools, public and private, would not be able to consider behavior related to their gender identity when hiring or evaluating teachers. Religious schools also would be forced to violate their religious tenants under this legislation, by affirmative action mandates.

 

Diana H. Caliendo

Sarah Kolb

3/30/06

 

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