Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-6599

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING DISCRIMINATION.

Vote Date:

4/5/2011

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

3/21/2011

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

Transgender citizens often face discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations. Passage of this bill would amend the current state statue to include “gender identity or expression” as a protected class.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Andrew J. McDonald, General Counsel to Governor Malloy: Supports this bill. The Governor has been a longstanding supporter of this legislation, and he very much looks forward to signing it. Legislation adding gender identity and expression to the list of protected classes in our anti-discrimination statutes has come before this committee many times before, and every time it has been raised, Governor Malloy submitted testimony expressing his heartfelt support, and urging members of this committee to vote in favor of it. This legislation has historically enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in this committee. Of the three votes taken, it passed by margins of 28 to 8 in 2006, 29 to 4 in 2007, and 37 to 6 in 2008. This legislation has previously made it through the Committees on Judiciary, Government, Administration and Elections, Higher Education, and Education. On the one occasion it was called to the floor, it passed the Senate by an extraordinary 30 to 4 votes before lengthy debate in the final days of the session stalled it on the House floor. The equal treatment of individuals under the laws of our state has been an issue of continuing importance to the Governor and to me throughout our careers in public service. I would respectfully suggest it is your obligation to educate your fellow members of the Legislature, about this legislation and to relay to them the testimony that you will hear today. Through education comes understanding.

Jeanne Milstein, Child Advocate: Supports this bill. This proposal simply adds gender identity or expression to Connecticut's Non-Discrimination Law. This is another important part of the safety net for children, particularly those who are most vulnerable. It will help ensure their safety and well being. It is also a matter of fairness and equality. We don't want children harmed for who they are. Children need love, support, acceptance, understanding, and a sense of safety and well being. They also need laws as an essential aspect to help protect them. Again, this proposal assures the same fairness and protections for children who express their gender identity differently. If this bill passes into law, it will offer an important safeguard to all children and adults.

The Permanent Commission on the Status of Women: Supports this bill. Individuals are often harassed or discriminated against in several arenas, such as employment, education, housing, public accommodations and credit matters, because of the stereotypical belief about how men and women should act. While there is a CHRO ruling that prohibits discrimination against transgender people under the sex discrimination laws, there is no clear statutory protection. This bill would provide such protection. 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. By including gender identity and expression in Connecticut's anti-discrimination 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.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Edith Prague, State Senator 19th District: Supports this bill. I've heard a lot of scientific discussion on this bill. All of us just have “x” number of years to live this life. We don't get a second chance, and we ought to be able to live a life comfortable with ourselves, and not be discriminated against if we needed to make a change so that we could go through life and be productive, be successful, and feel like we are accepted like everybody else wants to feel. Everybody wants to feel that they have a place in this world. Hopefully this committee will be sensitive to the needs of every human being, regardless. I think that's important. I think it makes us better people.

David McGuire, Staff Attorney for ACLU of CT: Transgender people often face pervasive discrimination in virtually every aspect of life. Discrimination based on gender identity or expression is a serious and real problem in Connecticut. At the ACLU of Connecticut, we receive countless phone calls and letters from transgendered people and their families regarding discrimination. People who do not perfectly fit in the conventional ideas of male or female gender roles are often victimized when engaging in activities most people take for granted, such as checking into a hotel, attending school, eating at a restaurant, or using public transportation. It is fair to say that most people in Connecticut are not familiar with the CHRO rulings. Connecticut has no explicit laws protecting transgendered people from discrimination in employment, education, housing, and public accommodations. Adding the phrase gender identity or expression to current nondiscrimination laws, will codify statutory protection for transgendered people.

Lisa Mottet, Transgender Civil Rights Project Director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: To date, thirteen states have statewide prohibitions on gender identity discrimination, including Connecticut's neighbors, Maine, Vermont, and Rhode Island. Minnesota was the first date to enact these provisions in 1993. Colorado, Iowa and Vermont enacted their laws in 2007. Additional states include California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington. Along with these 13 state laws, over 100 local jurisdictions have enacted nondiscrimination ordinances that protect people on the basis of gender identity; the first passed in Minneapolis in 1975. They have passed all over the country, including in places that some might consider unlikely, such as two counties and one city in Kentucky and nine local jurisdictions in Utah. Collectively, if you add up all the people that live in these jurisdictions, 41% of the population is covered by one of these laws. Passing this bill would add Connecticut to this growing list by adding “gender identity and expression” as a protected characteristic to provisions in state law including provisions prohibiting discrimination in employment, public accommodations, housing, credit, and education, as well as other areas.

Stephen A. Karp, MSW, Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers / Connecticut Chapter: NASW and the social work profession have long been concerned with working to eliminate discrimination in all forms. This commitment is embodies in the NASW Code of Ethics (NASW, 2008) that states “Social workers should not practice, condone, facilitate, or collaborate with any form of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical disability” (emphasis added). It is based on this founding ethical principal that we call for passage of HB 6599. Transgender people face real discrimination in a variety of aspects of their lives that have damaging effects to them. Discrimination permeates a person's life, negatively affecting their social life, their work life, their physical and mental health, their economic security, and their sense of self-worth. Because Connecticut state law lacks a legal remedy for transgender persons who have been discriminated against, the state is complicit in the discriminatory act. This Legislature can rectify this missing element of statutory protection by passage of HB 6599.

Gretchen Raffa, Manager, Public Affairs & Community Organizing for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Inc.: Transgender people are underserved in our health care system, and this is only one form of discrimination they face in our society. Transgender, transsexual, and gender nonconforming people face discrimination in health care for a number of reasons, including the lack of knowledge of their specific health care needs, lack of qualified and trained medical providers, and lacking health insurance, and or coverage, for specific health needs. A 2010 study of transgender people in health care access found participants reported that when they were sick or injured, many postponed medical care due to discrimination (28%) or inability to afford it (48%). The same study showed 19% reported being refused medical care due to their transgender or gender non-conforming status, with even higher numbers among people of color being reported in the survey. Because of the urgent need for health care providers who can address the specific needs of the transgender community, we have committed ourselves to a nondiscriminatory environment. In our mission to provide quality and sensitive health care, we have made changes on health forms, and continue to examine ways to make our health centers more welcoming and open to transgender patients. We believe all Connecticut residents deserve fairness and equality, not only in accessing their health care, but in accessing employment, housing, education, public accommodations, and all of their basic human rights.

Lori Pelletier, Secretary /Treasurer of Connecticut AFL-CIO: This bill is about basic human rights, it's about fairness and justice and most importantly it's about respect. No worker should be faced with the possibility of losing their job, or being singled out just because of who they are. We don't allow it when it comes to the religion we chose to follow and we should not allow it for being who we are born to be. This bill when passed will not create any “special rights”, but simply afford all Connecticut workers and citizens basic protection from employment discrimination based on gender identity or expression. It is based on the labor principle that every worker should be judged solely on his or her merits as a worker. The Connecticut AFL-CIO has been and will continue to be at the forefront of ending workplace discrimination.

Linda Estabrook, Executive Director of the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective: The HGLHC serves transgender individuals in several medical, prevention, support and education programs. The discrimination faced by these individuals in so many facets of their lives is pervasive in our community and devastating for many. These are just people trying to live their lives as who they are nothing more. The “trickle down” effect of discrimination includes loss of employment or inability to obtain gainful employment. Minimal or no income means that some of these individuals become dependent upon entitlement programs to survive. Not having gainful employment oftentimes means that access to healthcare is significantly limited due to lack of health insurance, as employment and medical insurance are so often tied together. It would be better for our state if these individuals could participate fully in our society which includes being employed and paying taxes. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” It is important to keep this in mind as an important reason to pass this legislation.

The Connecticut Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League: A critical element of ADL'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. 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. Fortunately, Connecticut's discrimination laws provide significant protection to many classes of individuals subject to discrimination as well as meaningful avenues for responding to such discrimination. However, gender identity or expression is not among the protected classes. Discrimination based on one's gender identity or expression is as pernicious as discrimination based on those categories explicitly prohibited by current law such as race, sex, and religion, and should receive equal and unambiguous protection under the law.

Leif Mitchell, Co-Chair at the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network of Connecticut: Bullying and harassment has become a serious public health crisis in our nation's schools. 65% of teens have been verbally or physically harassed or assaulted based on a characteristic that makes them different from some of their peers, like race, religion, or gender. 65% of junior high school teachers report that bullying and harassment is a serious problem in school. A report issued by GLSEN in 2009, Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in our Nation's Schools suggests a significant number of transgender students' education has suffered due to the lack of protection that a statutory amendment could provide. Two-thirds of Connecticut transgender students feel unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation and how they express their gender. Almost half of all transgender students report skipping a class at least once in the past month and missing at least one day of school in the previous month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. Connecticut has the opportunity to become one of the growing numbers of states and municipalities that have extended full civil rights to all residents – including transgender residents. In order to improve the lives and ability to learn of all Connecticut students, we support passage of this bill which will ensure that “gender identity/expression” is added to all Connecticut statutes addressing discrimination, including those statues related to schools.

Daniel Schlorff , Founder & President of the Log Cabin Republicans of CT: I have served as local Minister with the Church of the Nazarene and later with the Congregational Christian Church. Clarifying employment law, and freeing up our courts, will help our state relieve ambiguity for businesses who want to move to Connecticut. Right now the Equal Opportunity Employer provisions are the loophole, and I think it is important in order to bring transparency to Connecticut. We can entice potential businesses who are interested in relocating to Connecticut. We can entice them by becoming more transparent and operating not in a loophole to protect transgender rights or gender identity for that matter, but that becomes the norm. Right now established corporations don't want to relocate to Connecticut. There are too many unknowns. If any of us have tried to apply for a bank loan, they ask for our business plan, and if the banker sees that there are too many unknowns, then we're not going to get the loan. What is Connecticut's business plan? We have too high taxes. We spend too much. We really don't have anything that makes us viable to attract these new companies in. And so it is a conservative value to pass H.B. 6599 out of Committee, onto the floor and into law.

Jerimarie Liesegang, PhD; Director CT TransAdvocacy Coalition: I am here to speak both on behalf of the Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition as well as a transsexual woman who has faced significant discrimination within the state of Connecticut. I founded the Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition many years back as a result of severe discrimination against, and minimal visibility of, the transgender community. In Connecticut, my organization routinely receives calls from transgender people under stress of having just lost their job or not able to secure employment because they are transgender. A recent Greater Hartford survey we did supports the national statistics that 50 percent of transgender persons experience employment discrimination, and for the remaining minority fortunate enough to be employed, most realize annual salaries of less than $15,000, that housing discrimination exceeds 40 percent, and that nearly 50 percent lack any type of health insurance. These statistics truly represent the extent of discrimination that transgender people in Connecticut face every single day. The City of Hartford, which has experienced several transgender employment discrimination lawsuits, passed an ordinance in January of this year that included gender identity or expression in its antidiscrimination policies. DCF modified its policies to not discriminate against transgender people. Transsexual parents are not treated as sick people any longer within our divorce courts or our child custody courts. Numerous companies, churches, universities, and colleges, modified their EEO policies to include gender identity or expression. Sadly however, we are still here each year asking the State of Connecticut to align its nondiscrimination laws with many of these major corporations, businesses, social service providers, and churches. This legislation is not about special rights, it is about basic human rights.

Dr. Laura Saunders, Licensed Psychologist, on behalf of ctEQUALITY: I'm a licensed psychologist, specializing in child and adolescent development and psychopathology. I've been working in this field for over 20 years. Gender identity is the child's identification of himself or herself as male or female. By age four or five, gender identity is stable, and in typical development, a child's internal feeling of maleness or femaleness is congruent with their biological sex. Multiple factors determine core gender identity. One does not choose to be one gender or another. By the time a child enters elementary school at age five; their gender identity is firmly secure and is not subject to undue influence by others. There is an absolute need for protection for our gender nonconforming youth and young adults who are most vulnerable. Specific protection against discrimination may cause teachers and administrators to make a concerted effort to better protect gender variant youth. A minority of LGBT students report having adequate support in school, which may explain why there have not been greater improvements regarding in-school victimization. It's important to remember that children are tolerant and flexible in their thinking, and can understand differences from their own, and this only serves to enhance their empathy and their appreciation of diversity.

Attorney Rachel Goldberg: This law will change a sign that employers have that say they don't discriminate on the basis of anything that's listed in the statute. If we list gender identity or expression in the statute, a lot of legal stuff goes away because it's now clear. I was born Jewish. My employer can't fire me because I'm Jewish. If tomorrow I convert to Christianity, they can't fire me because I'm now Christian. They can't fire me because I changed from one to the other. Why then could one be fired for changing their sex, from male to female or female to male? It doesn't make sense because discrimination doesn't make sense, but it costs everybody. It costs the person who is being discriminated against. It costs the person who's doing the discrimination, and it costs the state if that person now has to go on unemployment. Passing this bill is not going to stop discrimination. What it's going to do is tell people this is the law, this is what you must follow, and everybody will be starting on the path to back this equality and justice that we look for.

Shared personal story:

● Nicole Mitchell, Stratford, CT

● Dalia Panke, Vernon, CT

● Andrea Wilson, Griswold, CT

● Elizabeth Deck, East Haven, CT

● Laura Sanchez-Garcia, Meriden, CT

● Carrie Kline, Bridgeport, CT

● Joshua Delekta, Torrington, CT

● Robert C. / Barbara C.

● Priscilla, Norwich, CT

● Konrad Ralph Wainright, Easton, CT

● Paula Broderick, New Britain, CT

● Anne Faith Beon

● Barbara Althen, Norwich, CT

● Quinton M. Johansen, Plainville, CT

● Ethan Furious

● Ashley McGuffie, Fairfield, CT

● Scott Jaburek, Hartford, CT

● Victoria Flagg, Trumbull, CT

● Glenn Koetzner, Sharon, CT

● Monica Connor, Sharon, CT

● Brittany Fielstra-Solem, New Haven, CT

● Tasha Schaedler, Avon, CT

● Virginia Levasseur, Norwich, CT

● Kallista Solyn, Bozrah, CT

● Tammi Dee Voytek, Waterbury, CT

● Jennifer Ann Paradis, Columbia, CT

● Brenda Jean Louise, Waterbury, CT

● Diana Lombardi, Berlin, CT

● Laura Saponare, Rocky Hill, CT

● Marichris Cariaga, Norwich, CT

● David “Rachel” Conlin McLeod

● Alberto Cifuentes, Jr, New Haven, CT

● Ace Ricker

● Abbey Willis, Manchester, CT

● Frank O'Gorman, West Hartford, CT

● Amanda Proscino, Wallingford, CT

● Tina R., Fairfield, CT

● Meghan Stabler

● Tony F., New Haven, CT

● Jesse R., Fairfield, CT

● Tara Alexander, Bozrah, CT

● Melissa Spear

● Don Arsenault, Stratford, CT

● S.E. Kinsella, Esq., Portland, CT

Voices of Support:

● Nicole Fink, UConn School of Social Work

● Jamiah Tappin, UConn School of Social Work

● David Sant, UConn School of Social Work

● Jaclyn Garuti, UConn School of Social Work

● Thomas Shusterman, UConn School of Social Work

● Jamilah Tigner, UConn School of Social Work

● Jacqueline Martone, Cheshire, CT (Student – Uconn)

● Robin McHaelen, Executive Director of True Colors

● Christina Octave, New Britain, CT

● Jennifer L. Levi, Esq., Director of the Transgender Rights Project at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders

● Austin Longendyke, Norwich, CT (Sophmore – Uconn)

● Matt Smith, Alderman Ward 9, New Haven, CT

● Nicolette Laume, Student – Trinity College

● Kurt Love, Ph.D., Professor at Central Connecticut State University

● Sally Tamarkin, Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund and ctEQUALITY

● Ted Rucci, Quinnipiac University School of Law Q Alliance, Yale Law School Outlaws, UConn Law School Lambda Law Society

Clergy Support:

● Rev. Sarah Person, Universalist Church of West Hartford, CT

● Rev. Joshua Mason Pawelek, Unitarian Universalist Society, E. Manchester, CT

● Rev. James E. Curry, Bishop Suffragen of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut

● Rev. Aaron L. Miller, Metropolitan Community Church of New Haven, CT

● Rev. Michelle Lee LaGrave, Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Bridgeport

● Rev. Carolyn Patierno, All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation, New London, Ct

● Rabbi Jeff Glickman, South Windsor, CT

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Peter Wolfgang, President of the Family Institute of Connecticut Action: I want to start with something Andrew McDonald, Chief Legal Counsel for the Governor, said in his testimony. He talked about the history of this bill, and he talked about how in '06 you had so many votes, in '07, and '08, that there was an increase in support for this bill. But he stopped at 2008 for a reason. In 2009, for the first time, this bill died in committee. In 2010, for the first time, this bill did not get a public hearing. So, I mean the truth is, this bill actually crested at some point and then receded, and what I'm here today to ask you is that you continue this positive trend away from this bill. The current law has exceptions for single-sex sleeping accommodations, bathrooms, and locker rooms. H.B. 6599 would circumvent all of those exceptions, which would still apply to sex, but would not apply to gender identity or expression. If this bill were to become law, the consequences would be serious. Women and children would be put at risk since anyone, regardless of their biological sex would be allowed access to sensitive areas such as single-sex bathrooms and locker rooms as well as college dormitories. Nothing would prevent a male sexual predator from pretending that he is confused about his sex to gain access to a woman's bathroom or to join a female only-fitness club. The law could also affect sex education classes ins school, suggesting that sex change operations are mainstream and confusing children even more. To this day gender identity confusion is considered by professional psychology to be a mental disorder. It should not be raised to the level of a protected class.

William C. O'Brien, President of Connecticut Right to Life Corporation: I just want to first address the definition of gender identity in the bill. HB 6599 would make this definition law – “Gender identity or expression means a person's gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth. The American Psychiatric Association recognizes identification with a non-biologically based gender as an identity disorder. The American Psychiatric Association permits a diagnosis of gender identity disorder if the four diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text-Revised (DSM-IV-LTR) are met. The criteria are:

Long-standing and strong identification with another gender.

Long-standing disquiet about the sex assigned or a sense of incongruity in the gender-assigned role of that sex.

The diagnosis is not made if the individual also has physical intersex characteristics.

Significant clinical discomfort or impairment at work, social situations, or other important life areas.

Uncertainty about gender identity which causes anxiety or stress is diagnosed as sexual maturation disorder. Gender identity disorders are real. No doubt they are not easy to live with or to treat. We should all condemn any persecution or bullying of people who have these disorders. Thos who have these disorders deserve compassion and psychiatric help. But this bill would compel all of society to accept this disordered sexual behavior as normal. This bill ignores science, biology, medicine, and common sense. Rather than require people with this sickness to conform to society's sexual norms, this bill would require society to conform to the sickness! Though no one wants to discriminate against another person, when a person has a psychological illness, it is wrong to treat that person's behavior as normal. It is even more absurd to treat those who recognize the symptoms of the illness as though they were the ones who are sick or even as criminals. This is not a bill that affects only the few people with a disorder. Rather, it will create a disordered society.

James Bailey Brislin, Enfield, CT & Student Western New England College School of Law: I wish to decry to procedural tactics employed to raise this legislation. For much of the session I had been tracking this bill as H.B. 5901 and then one day last week it's introduced under a new number and the next day a public hearing is scheduled. In essence, supporters of this measure were provided with less than a week's notice of the only public hearing on the matter. I oppose H.B. 6599 because it creates a new civil rights classification, “gender identity and expression” that is overbroad and reflects a flawed understanding of human sexuality. The “sex” classification has its basis in anatomy and physiology. The proponents of this measure are seeking to use the long arm of the law to redefine sexuality as a social construct, instead of as a matter of biology. In essence, if I wake up tomorrow and decide that I'm a woman, I would be able to act like a woman even though I have a male physiology. If this measure is codified as law, it will be confusing to children and promote an understanding of human sexuality that the vast majority of state residents strongly oppose. I particularly object to Section 9, on page 8. If section 9 is implemented, there is nothing to stop schoolchildren from being exposed to cross-dressing teachers. Likewise, there is nothing to stop a teacher from starting the year as Mr. Jones, going to have an operation, and returning as Ms. Jones. This is not right for kids. If this legislation passes, anyone who decides they are a member of the opposite sex would be able to use opposite sex restrooms. Transgendered men will be allowed to use the women's restroom regardless of physiology. Sexual predators who want to prey on women and children will have a new tactic at their disposal: pretend to be transgendered and obtain access to the women's restroom. Reject HB 6599 and protect the innocence of our children and the safety of our girlfriends, wives, and mothers.

Mike Klinger, Connecticut Citizen: As a father of two children and a concerned citizen of the State of CT I am deeply troubled by HB 6599. This bill would raise a cluster of various transsexual related behaviors under the title of gender identity and expression to a protected class. It would make transsexuals equal to constitutionally protected classes such as race, color, religion and national origin. Let me remind the committee that your job is to uphold current law, not create new ones. Uphold current protected classes of citizens, not interpret new ones. And protect the common good of all citizens (especially our children) not impose on the majority the deviant life-style choices of the few. Passing HB 6599 would mean that a man who is a sexual predator could claim to be “transgendered” and enter a woman's public bathroom. It means that your son or daughter would be exposed to teachers in their schools who on one day will be a man and the next day could decide to be a woman. It means that court ordered same sex marriage is just the first step in a campaign to force children in our public schools to be exposed to alternative lifestyles even if their parents disapprove. Above all this legislation means that those who see gender as something to be changed at will are trying to deconstruct the most basic of natural categories – male and female – in our society. I ask the members of the Judiciary Committee, is this what the forefathers of our country envisioned as freedom, or is this rather an abuse of freedom turned into license, with no moral compass left to protect the common good of our citizens and children anymore as a society?

Kate Bartos, New Hartford: I am appalled that this bill is even being considered. Is anybody thinking about the children? Think of the taxpayer resources being wasted spending time as our representatives on this bill, which is a self-interested bill by a powerful lobby? Why not invest time in designating our children as a protected class? Shouldn't they come first? Is it too much to ask that our children could go into a bathroom or their schools without being exposed to a philosophy that is not representative of or supported by the larger majority of our citizens?

Reported by: Tasha N. Smith

Date: 04/15/2011