In a significant victory for Ward 1 Alderman Michael Jones ’11, the Board of Aldermen voted Thursday night to approve a measure banning discrimination based on gender identity.
Just two days after a contentious election, the Board of Aldermen reconvened Thursday to consider a proposed ordinance amendment championed by Jones since January 2010. The proposal, which Jones introduced along with Ward 9 Alderman Matt Smith ’98 and Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, amends the city’s Equal Opportunity Ordinances to ban employment discrimination based on “actual or perceived gender identity and expression.” The measure passed unanimously with 23 votes and one abstention.
“I think everyone has a right to feel enfranchised and protected by the law, particularly those groups that often live in the shadows,” Jones said after the meeting.
Jones said after the vote that he first became interested in the issue when introduced to it by Fierce Advocates, a Yale student LGBTQ rights organization.
“When I first learned about the issue,” he said, “I was surprised that no one had done anything about it.” He added that the measure’s passage was particularly satisfying coming near the end of his term as alderman.
Amalia Skilton ’13, who founded Fierce Advocates and helped organize testimony on the bill, said she was thrilled at the measure’s passage.
The bill follows a similar measure signed into law by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy last June. Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez cited this earlier legislation as part of the reason he supported the new measure..
“What’s in front of us is a simple request to bring our ordinances up to date with state law,” Perez said. “What we’re doing is making life easier for people who have been discriminated against in the past on the basis of gender expression. This is a civil rights issue in many ways.”
But the New Haven provision will provide stronger protection than the statewide law, Smith said, because it does not require proof that the job applicant is transgender, which he called a “compromise made to pass the statewide version.” Skilton agreed, adding that the provision requiring a doctor’s note confirming someone’s transgender status was “demeaning and unnecessary.”
Sarah Eidelson ’12, who won Tuesday’s election to replace Jones as Ward 1 alderman, attended last night’s meeting and voiced support for the measure.
“I’m thrilled that it passed,” she said. “I think it sends a strong statement that the city respects all people equally.” Eidelson testified in favor of the measure when it was in committee.
Outgoing Ward 22 Alderman Greg Morehead was the lone abstaining vote.