The legislature is in the last days of session, and you may be reading about many bills flying through the General Assembly. While some votes pass down party lines, most of the legislation gets approved with bipartisan support. When both parties work together, I believe we accomplish our best work. Unfortunately, at times, the process breaks down and so does the work product. The House debate on the transgender bill was one of those times.
For the past several years, the General Assembly has considered a proposal to afford civil right protections based upon an individual’s gender identity. The intent of the legislation is to prevent discrimination against those who are transgender or transvestites. This bill has never made it to a vote on the House floor and it seemed to be meeting the same fate until Governor Malloy expressed his desire to have the bill advance without any compromise or amendments.
No one can argue with the concept of affording civil right protections to a group of vulnerable individuals; however, this bill failed to extend a long-standing exemption for private facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms. Connecticut law has always exempted private places, such as sleeping accommodations that segregates boys and girls (i.e. dormitories), bathroom and locker rooms from assertions of sex discrimination; therefore, private businesses and public institutions can prevent women from using the men’s room and men from using the women’s room without fear of a discrimination claim. By a vote of 62-67, the House rejected an amendment seeking to maintain this exemption.
The bill defines gender identity or expression as “a person's gender related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth. . . " The definition is subjective, is based upon personal beliefs and does not require any long standing pattern of behavior or clinical diagnosis. Anyone, therefore, can assert protections under this law at any time. As a result, police or employers will have a difficult time addressing situations in bathrooms or locker rooms because if they attempt to remove or even question someone in these private places, they could be subject to a discrimination claim.
This bill is very troubling to say the least. It awaits action in the Senate and I will continue to advocate for this longstanding exemption for private places. To not do so poses an unnecessary public safety risk, or at the very least, can make visits to the restroom or locker rooms a bit uncomfortable. Common sense needs to prevail.
Candelora represents East Haven, North Branford and Wallingford in the Connecticut General Assembly.