Request From Parents: Please Pass Trans Equal Rights Bill

Dear Massachusetts Legislature,

We are parents of LGBT children—some of us have lost our children to anti-LGBT bias—and we are calling on you to pass the Transgender Equal Rights Bill before another parent loses a child.

In doing so, you will change people’s lives for the better. People like Ty, a transgender man and parent of two who has had difficulty finding employment to support his family because of discrimination based on his gender identity. And people like Deborah, a mother of a transgender son who, like us, worries about the safety of her child.

The Transgender Equal Rights Bill would add protections for transgender people to existing Massachusetts civil rights laws. These laws currently prohibit discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, and marital status in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and credit. This bill would also add violent offenses against transgender people to the list of criminal acts that are subject to treatment as hate crimes.

Fifteen other states, including neighboring Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island already have these protections in place. This past May, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican, signed a similar bill into law in that state. Hundreds of businesses operating in the Bay State offer these protections to employees. More than 100 clergy members and rabbis support this measure.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick enacted an executive order earlier this year prohibiting discrimination against transgender state employees and within state contracts. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, State Treasurer Steve Grossman and State Auditor Suzanne Bump enacted transgender protections in their offices. Attorney General Coakley additionally testified in person in favor of this bill before your Judiciary Committee in June. And four Massachusetts cities (Boston, Cambridge, Amherst, and Northampton) already have local ordinances in place protecting transgender people, and Boston and Northampton have passed resolutions calling upon you to follow up quickly with a statewide law. Even with the breadth and depth of these protections, only 235,000 of the state’s 6 million residents are protected from blanket discrimination.

The Transgender Equal Rights Bill has 68 cosponsors, which makes it one of the most popular bills on Beacon Hill. It is backed by Gov. Patrick, Attorney General Coakley, Senator John Kerry, Congressman Barney Frank, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, child welfare professionals, advocates for women, respected faith leaders and top law enforcement officials. The bill will save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts $3 million a year in public expenditures related to health insurance coverage, unemployment benefits, housing assistance, and other public programs that are currently spent on people who are otherwise employable were it not for the discrimination they face.

You are Democrats working in the bluest of blue states, so we know you can get this done. Even more, we know you want to. The Massachusetts Legislature has a long and proud history of acting to lift up the most vulnerable among us: the Commonwealth, thanks to the leadership showed by lawmakers, was among the earliest state’s to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, one of the first to take a stand against violence and harassment of lesbian and gay people by including sexual orientation in the state’s hate crimes law, one of the first to respond aggressively to the bullying and harassment of LGBT youth and, of course, the first state to recognize marriages between same-sex couples.

The state is waiting for you to take action now.

And so are we.

Sincerely,

Judy Shepard

Ken and Marcia Garber

Jeanne and David Hardy

Donna M. Cruz

Inez Andrews

Dianne and Leon Monnin

Maureen Mulhern

The writers are parents of LGBT children.

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3 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Young Democrats of Massachusetts Support as Well

    In May, the Young Democrats of Massachusetts delivered this testimony in favor as well:

    Dear Senator Creem, Representative O’Flaherty, and Members of the Committee:
    We are writing to ask you to support the passage of “An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights” (H.502/S.764).
    The Young Democrats of Massachusetts supported this bill last year, and we have renewed our commitment to see its passage this year. Our three thousand members state-wide believe that all people deserve equality under the law, regardless of their gender identity. As the current and future leaders of Massachusetts, we see this proposed law as a bold assertion that the legislature and citizens in our state believe in the first article of the Constituent of the Commonwealth, that “All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.”
    This proposed law would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education, credit lending, and public accommodations on the basis of a person’s gender identity or expression. It adds ‘gender identity or expression’ to existing hate crimes statutes, which reflects the heightened level of violence experienced by transgender people.
    Transgender people throughout the Commonwealth are often harmed by harassment, discrimination, and violence. For example, Bay State employers have fired transgender people either before or after transitioning their gender, while many other transgender people in the state remain unemployed or underemployed as a result of discrimination, hostility, and misunderstanding about who they are.
    This legislation is absolutely vital to our community. In countless dehumanizing ways, transgender people are denied opportunities and services for their basic needs, as well as the ability to be productive members of society. The Massachusetts Legislature has a chance this year to send a very different message by passing “An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights” Bill. This bill makes it clear that we value our transgender residents and will protect them against discrimination and violence.
    We urge you to support this legislation, which represents an important step towards equality for all residents of the Commonwealth. It is time for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to join 13 other jurisdictions, including Washington D.C., and the hundreds of municipalities, including Boston, Cambridge, Northampton, and Amherst, that already protect their transgender residents in this country, and once again take its rightful place as a beacon of liberty, justice and equality for all people.
    Signed,
    The Young Democrats of Massachusetts

  2. I've always wondered why 'sex' is there in the first place.

    Wouldn’t a lot of these changes not NEED to be painstakingly legislated if the word ‘gender’ were substituted for ‘sex’ in the statute?

    It would also be a more accurate reflection of the intent of the statute, as celibacy isn’t really the issue.

  3. Sex vs. Gender

    Sex commonly refers to a person’s (or any living thing really) biology. So, for example, ownership of biological traits such as sex organs, or body parts used for reproduction, determines a person’s sex. Gender refers to social and psychological traits associated with one sex- masculinity and femininity, and expressed through gender roles. These can differ greatly across cultures. For example, a woman in the U.S. can be acceptably feminine in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. A woman in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan would not have been thought of as properly expressing her gender if she wore the same outfit. Gender expression can differ greatly based on the morals of a culture.

    The difference legally could be this: a person who cannot be discriminated against because of “sex” could be discriminated against because their biological characteristics do not match how they express their gender. A protection against sexual discrimination could protect me from losing my home because I’m a woman. However, it would not protect me if my landlord decides to evict me because if I dressed as most men dress.

    It’s true that in some contexts, gender can mean both of these things above. However, because the word is in transition and is used differently by different people and in different contexts, you need both words to be able to prevent two types of discrimination. If you need more info, Wikipedia’s page is a good intro, with more of the sociological research history.

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