“Gender identity or expression” may become the next protected group under both the city’s and the state’s discrimination laws.
Joined by Ward 9 Alderman Matt Smith ’98 and Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, Ward 1 Alderman Michael Jones ’11 introduced legislation to the Board of Aldermen Monday night that would ban discrimination on the basis of “perceived gender identity and expression.” Parallel legislation in Hartford, first proposed five years ago, cleared the Judiciary Committee of the State Legislature Tuesday to pave the way for a floor debate.
If the state legislation passes the General Assembly, Gov. Dannel Malloy has indicated he will sign the bill into law.
A Yale student LGBTQ organization, Fierce Advocates, introduced Jones to the idea in January 2010. Jones has worked with Fierce Advocate members since then to research the issue and build support for legislation at the city level.
“We are thrilled that Mike is introducing this legislation and we congratulate him on his leadership,” said Amalia Skilton ’13, a member of Fierce Advocates.
The ordinance amendments Jones, Smith and Elicker are proposing would extend all language in the city’s laws prohibiting discrimination in hiring, contracting and city services to protect “gender identity or expression.” Jones called the amendments a “clarification of existing law.”
Smith and Jones said their efforts are meant to be “proactive” and are not a response to any particular incident of discrimination in the city.
The legislation allows the city “to make a public statement reaffirming its commitment to providing an equal opportunity for all of its residents to participate in civic life,” Jones said Monday night after introducing the amendments.
In Hartford, supporters of the state bill are hoping to make Connecticut the 14th state to explicitly ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
The bill would protect transgender people from discrimination in contexts such as employment, education and housing, though self-identification as transgendered would not be required.
A broad coalition of groups, including the Connecticut chapters of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Civil Liberties Union, CT Equality and other gay-rights groups, are supporting the state bill.
But the legislation, which has failed to get out of the General Assembly since it was first introduced in 2006, also faces vigorous opposition.
At the Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday night, Peter Wolfgang, president of the Family Institute of Connecticut Action, testified that the bill would have dangerous consequences.
“Nothing would prevent a male sexual predator from pretending he is confused about his sex to gain access to a woman’s bathroom or to join a female-only fitness club,” Wolfgang said. “Under this bill, your child could be forced to learn that their teacher, Mr. Jones, has now become Mrs. Jones — and that this is perfectly normal.”
State Rep. John Kissel, Republican of Enfield, offered an unsuccessful amendment to prevent teachers from undergoing sexual transitions during the school year.
Still, said supporters of the bills, such the criticisms ignore the serious difficulties that transgender people encounter in their daily lives. The proposed ordinance amendments at the city level now head to the Legislation Committee for review. Jones, who is vice chairman of the committee, said the committee may wait to review the proposals until May, when the fate of the state bill is clearer.