Hawai’i Enacts Transgender Inclusive Public Accommodations Law and Vermont’s Trans-Inclusive Nondiscrimination Bill Clears Legislature, Awaits Governor’s Signature | National Center for Transgender Equality

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David Farmer
May 8, 2006

Hawai’i Enacts Transgender Inclusive Public Accommodations Law and Vermont’s Trans-Inclusive Nondiscrimination Bill Clears Legislature, Awaits Governor’s Signature

Washington, DC - Last week, two states, Hawai’i and Vermont, made historic strides forward in protecting the civil rights of transgender and gender nonconforming people. On May 3, Hawaii’s second transgender-inclusive bill passed into law, and on May 5 an expansive nondiscrimination bill in Vermont cleared the Legislature, positioning Vermont to become the ninth state in the country to make discriminatory practices based on gender identity or expression illegal. The District of Columbia also amended its anti-discrimination law in March to include gender identity or expression.

“The legislation in Hawai’i and Vermont represent huge civil rights victory for the transgender community,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). “I applaud the efforts of state groups and local advocates who showed that when we stand up for what’s right, we can win.”

Hawaii’s new law explicitly prohibits discriminatory practices in public accommodations based on “gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.” Public accommodations include any facility whose operations affect commerce, such as hospitals, shops, hotels, restaurants, museums, theaters, and schools. The law strengthens Hawaii’s existing protections, building on the state’s housing nondiscrimination bill, which passed into law just last year.

The bill passed into law without the signature of Governor Linda Lingle. Last year, a bill passed through Hawaii’s Legislature that would specifically ban employment discrimination based on gender identity or expression, but was vetoed by the Governor. Other elected officials recognized the need for civil rights protections for all of their constituents, like recent bill supporter Representative Blake Oshiro (D-33rd).

The same day, a Vermont bill that would prohibit discrimination based on a person’s gender identity or expression passed the Senate, and on May 5 a final 88-47 vote of concurrence sent the bill to Governor Jim Douglas. First introduced four years ago as H. 478 by Representative Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg), the favorable concurrence vote has built momentum for the bill to be signed into law. Last February, the National Center for Transgender Equality held an advocacy training in Vermont to support local efforts in the state.

“I am so excited,” said Christopher Kaufman, executive director of the R.U.1.2? Queer Community Center in Burlington. “It’s going to make a huge difference. People are going to feel like they have protections in this state.”

The bill covers employment, housing and public accommodations, and is a bold step forward in providing equal protection under the law for all Vermonters. Vermont’s hate crimes law already includes “gender identity and expression” language. If Governor Douglas allows the bill to become law, Vermont will be the ninth state to pass an explicitly transgender-inclusive anti-discrimination law.

Recognizing the need to curb rampant discrimination against gender-variant 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. These laws currently cover 31-percent of the US population.

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