Thursday, June 01, 2006

Our Seven Unsung Heros in Vermont

I want to draw attention to the surprising fact that seven people resigned their official positions with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, in protest of Gov. James Douglas' May 17th decision to vito the new gender identity nondiscrimination bill. The bill had been already passed by Vermont's state representatives and senators after careful consideration over a four year period, yet Gov. Douglas felt unspecified concerns and used his power to crush the bill.

While grave disappointment is warranted in Gov. Douglas and those four who supported his vito, it is worthy of recognition that one upstanding Comissioner and six staff felt so strongly against his decision, they actually quit their jobs in protest. Today, the following letter was published in the Vermont Times Argus newspaper, to which I sent them a response which is appended below.

Despite the apparent backward-step in the vito of this important bill, the fact that these seven good citizens felt so strongly against the injustice as to quit their jobs, is a sign that real change is near. There are leaders in political office who truly care about justice for transgender people, and are willing to fight for what is right.

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Ex-panelists blast gender-identity veto
Vermont Times Argus - June 1, 2006

We, the undersigned former commissioners and staff members of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, write to express our concern and dismay with Gov. James Douglas' decision to veto the nondiscrimination act, which would have added gender identity protections to the state's anti-bias laws in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

Of particular concern to us, and to the commission's mission to protect the civil rights of all Vermonters, is the May 17 vote by four of the five members of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, all Douglas appointees, urging the governor's veto. We offer our support to Charles Kletecka, the sole dissenting commissioner, who resigned in protest over this distressing vote.

The nondiscrimination act was first introduced in the Legislature four years ago and, contrary to the governor's statement justifying his veto, was passed with strong three-party support after well-reasoned consideration by our state representatives and senators.

The governor's veto, with the support of the human rights commissioners, based on amorphous "technical implementation concerns," fosters continued prejudice against people whom Kletecka refers to as "a much misunderstood and maligned group of Vermonters." The protections granted by Vermont's proud history of anti-discrimination laws should not be thwarted by continued misperceptions and fears about people outside the mainstream of the Vermont community. Instead, our laws should reach toward greater inclusion, acceptance and understanding. Douglas' veto and the supporting vote of his appointees to the Human Rights Commission, erodes these important goals.

As former commissioners and staff of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, our hearts are heavy.

Emily Joselson, Gar Anderson, James Morgan, Sarah Judd, Susan Sussman, Mike Powers

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To which I replied as follows...

On behalf of gender variant people around the world, we want to extend sincere appreciation for this commendable stance taken against the Governor of Vermont, Mr. James Douglas, in regard to his vito of this important nondiscrimination bill.

The vito was based upon his perception of "technical implementation concerns", despite the fact that the bill had been examined over a 4 year period and met with "strong three-party support after well-reasoned consideration by our state representatives and senators".

Gov. James Douglas, along with four of his own appointed Commissioners, vitoed the bill without any legitimate justification. This is a case where a small group of five "important" people are standing in the way of social justice, impeding the needed progress toward equal and fair treatment of all people.

We are writing to express sincere admiration and appreciation for ex-Commissioner Charles Kletecka, for being that one dissenting voice on the panel which ordered the vito, and who because of his strong morality and high ethical standing, resigned his position over the injustice of this matter.

We also wish to thank the additional six brave upstanding ex-staff of the Commission who resigned their own positions, and authored this press release. To Emily Joselson, Gar Anderson, James Morgan, Sarah Judd, Susan Sussman, and Mike Powers, we are deeply grateful for the powerful stand you have taken.

Please do not let your hearts be heavy, be proud that you did what you know to be right. You are taking a stand against the continued discrimination, hatred, and prejudice toward gender variant people. It is because of brave people like you that we, the people, keep the faith for a better tomorrow. It is only those leaders who sit in silence that convey apathy toward our plight. Whereas, when even a small group such as you will go against the status quo and stand up to help us, we know that positive change is on the horizon.

Charles, Emily, Gar, James, Sarah, Susan and Mike, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Knowing that people like you exist in this world gives us renewed hope.

Sincerely yours,

Michele Angelique
www.genderevolve.com
on behalf of "The People"

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