Friday, December 15, 2006

N.J. outlaws gender-based discrimination

Written by National Center for Transgender Equality; Empire State Pride Agenda
Friday, 15 December 2006

New Jersey has made a historic stride forward in protecting the civil rights of transgender people. New Jersey’s Senate passed bill S362 on Monday, Dec. 11, by a vote of 31-5. The Assembly version, A930, passed New Jersey’s lower house by a vote of 69-5, now goes to Governor Jon S. Corzine, who is expected to sign the bill into law. Once signed, New Jersey will become the ninth state in the country to make discriminatory practices based on gender identity or expression illegal. New Jersey joins California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico and Rhode Island in legislating statewide transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination protections. These state-level laws in addition similar transgender-inclusive protections in the District of Columbia and in over 80 cities and counties now protect one-third of the US population based on gender identity or expression.

“The legislation in New Jersey represents a huge civil rights victory for transgender communities,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). “I applaud the amazing efforts of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey (GRAANJ), Garden State Equality and local advocates who showed that when we stand up for what’s right, we can win. While we celebrate that one-third of the US population is now covered, NCTE is continues to fight for explicitly transgender-inclusive protections on the federal level.”

New Jersey’s new law prohibits discriminatory practices in employment, housing and public accommodations based on “gender identity or expression” — the legislative language that covers transgender people. Too often transgender people face harassment and discrimination on the job or when applying for employment; when attempting to secure housing through rental properties or real estate; and in accessing everyday public accommodations, such as hospitals, schools, shops, hotels, restaurants and theaters.

“We are tremendously pleased to see this bill go to Governor Corzine for his consideration,” said Barbra Casbar, political director of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey (GRAANJ) and National Center for Transgender Equality Board of Advisors member. “GRAANJ and our allies have worked very hard to educate the public and policymakers on the critical importance of making protections for transgender New Jersians explicit in our state’s law. The vastly positive vote for the legislation proves conclusively that effective education will tear down the walls of ignorance and discrimination”

“The overwhelming support of our Legislature shows that New Jersey’s elected officials recognize the need for civil rights protections for all of their constituents,” said Donna Cartwright, a founding member of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey (GRAANJ) and member of the Board of Directors of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Prohibiting discrimination based on a person’s gender identity or expression is common-sense given the level of prejudice that transgender people face at work, in securing housing and accessing vital public accommodations such as hospitals.”

In June 2006, the National Center for Transgender Equality held its first national Target States Conference to provide legislative advocacy training to support local efforts in New Jersey and in eight other states where anti-discrimination laws included “sexual orientation” but not yet “gender identity or expression.” GRAANJ’s Barbra Casbar and Terry McCorkell were among the activists who attended NCTE’s Target States Conference. “We are ecstatic,” said GRAANJ Co-Founder Terry McCorkell. “The people of New Jersey have historically been stalwart champions of justice and equality. Today we demonstrate to the nation that New Jersey is second to none in guaranteeing fair treatment under the law for all people in the Garden State.”

Recognizing the need to curb rampant discrimination against transgender people, currently eight states, the District of Columbia and 80+ cities and counties across the country have now passed explicitly transgender-inclusive anti-discrimination laws.

Upon Governor Corzine’s signature, New Jersey will become the ninth state with inclusive anti-discrimination laws. These laws currently cover 33.5-percent, or one-third, of the US population.Earlier this week, the town of Rhinebeck in Dutchess County, New York passed a law ending discrimination based upon gender identity and expression, becoming at least the eighth locality in New York to do so. In response to both developments, Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle said, “New Jersey and Rhinebeck both understand what eight other states, seven other New York localities and scores of companies already understand: that it makes no sense to discriminate against someone because of the way they express their masculinity or femininity.”

“American Express gets it, IBM gets it, Pfizer gets it and now New Jersey and Rhinebeck get it,” said Van Capelle. “Why doesn’t the state of New York get it? While 53 percent of New Yorkers now live under a local ordinance protecting them from discrimination based on gender identity and expression, the rest of New York needs the state legislature to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) so that no transgender person can be fired from their job or kicked out of their home simply because of who they are.

“It’s time for the New York State Legislature to act. It’s time to pass a law that says it’s wrong to discriminate against transgender people,” said Van Capelle.

1 comments:

Alysyn said...

..and not just New York! I guess I'm having a difficult time understanding why this is such a difficult debate in the rest of the 41 states of the Union. What exactly is the dilemma regarding non-discrimination against another human being? Is the fact that it's discrimination based on gender expression creating a different perception of their human origins?

I'm lost...