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The Bathroom Bill: When Legislation Goes Too Far

An op-ed from Representative Vincent J. Candelora

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.

Autumn June 02, 2011 at 06:41 PM
Dear Congressman Candelora, Your insensitive rantings and your fear mongering offend me greatly. This is a segment of the population that is incredibly vulnerable and studies show highly discriminated against in all facets of life. In the 13 progressive states that do offer protection for transgender individuals there has not been a single instance to support your fear that people who are not transgendered will abuse the law to gain access to the other genders' restroom. On the other hand there are numerous incidents each week where transgender individuals are harrassed and even violently assualted (Chrissy Polis in Maryland comes to mind) for having to answer the call of nature. And going by your logic, I must assume you are in favor of gun control because bad people can abuse them to harm others. But given your stance on this issue, I assume you are republican and therefore are advocating for less government intrusion into peoples lives by demanding that they all conform to your notions of gender. ESAD.
Bob W June 02, 2011 at 06:56 PM
It's Malloy showing his liberal ways!! How about working on making a strong business environment for employment opportunities? I am not talking about the billions being thrown at UCONN Health.
Zoe Brain June 03, 2011 at 01:51 PM
Having researched the issue, Connecticut wouldn't exactly be a world-leader here. 14 other states, comprising nearly half the US population, have such legislation in force. Some have had for 35 years. Despite many dire predictions, from groups opposed to any rights whatsoever for Trans, Intersexed, or even Gay people, there hasn't been a single case of law enforcement having any such difficulty as Representative Candelora fears. You'd think he could have come up with one, if not hundreds, of complaints had his fears been well-grounded. But there's none. Zero. Zilch. Not from Law Enforcement; not from Prosecutors or DAs; not from the Judiciary; and not from the public. None. In Maryland recently, such fears were also expressed - and legislation failed to pass. The result? Not two weeks later, an atrocious assault on a Trans woman, caught on camera, for daring to use a public restroom. Representative Candelora's fears are unsubstantiated by the evidence - in fact, the reality contradicts them, obviously and blatantly. His apprehensions would seem at best, misplaced, even misguided, and at variance with the facts. I hope they're the result of poor research combined with true concern, and not something more sinister - as has unfortunately been the norm with all too many politicians elsewhere.
Nikki H June 03, 2011 at 02:13 PM
The simple fact is that in the many cities, businesses, counties, states that provide anti-discrimination for Trans people there have been no such incidents that you claim will occur. This is about fairness, equality, public health for a segment of the population that is often marginalized. You need to quit misrepresenting trans people as sexual predators because it is an outright lie used to create hysteria and promote a conservative political agenda.
Amber Thompson June 03, 2011 at 06:29 PM
In 33 years of these laws passing, there is not even one instance, of a Molester or rapist, dressing as a woman to enter a bathroom. Not even one. This is nothing more than hatemongering, and the perpetrator should be ashamed of themselves.
ejota June 04, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Representative Candelora closes his Republican-party talking points Op Ed by saying that 'common sense needs to prevail'. Common sense should be based upon facts and the facts in this case indicate a polar opposite direction than where Candelora has landed. 14 states whose populations amount to more than half the country have created legislation which protects the rights of transgendered. To say common sense leads to his misguided conclusion reveals a significant lack of judgement, at minimum. Being less charitable, one might question Candelora's true motivations.
C. Duport June 06, 2011 at 03:53 PM
The narrative as expounded by the religious Right has been fairly consistent; that liberals in general and the LGBT community in particular are standing astride America’s secular path to decline, decadence, and depravity; that liberals and the LGBT community specifically are the cause of all of society’s ills; and that anyone who does not oppose the so-called “Gay Agenda” is directly targeting people of faith. That there have been no documented instances of a man dressing as a woman for the purpose of committing an assault against a woman, as the Family Institute of Connecticut had posed, was completely irrelevant to their position. That similar legislation exists in 14 other jurisdictions was not germane to their inept rhetoric. To summarize, the efforts of the FIC failed not because of a "push by Governor Malloy", but because their politics of fear and victimization could not withstand a cursory examination of facts. When confronted with persuasive messages that capitalize on our fear, rational people asked the following questions: Is the entity or source exaggerating the fear or threat in order to obtain my support? How legitimate is the fear that the speaker is provoking? Epic fail Representative Candelora, by all intelligent criteria.
Dan June 08, 2011 at 10:09 PM
http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Stamford-transgender-person-charged-with-sexually-1414876.php
Dan June 08, 2011 at 10:11 PM
This is why civil right protections should not be extended to bathrooms and locker rooms. Fear mongering, I think not. STAMFORD -- A city transgender person was arrested early Wednesday morning after police say she sexually assaulted a teenaged boy at Stamford Town Center in April. Isaiah Johnson, 20, of 202 Ursula Place Stamford, was charged with second-degree sexual assault with someone under 16 and is being held in lieu of $25,000 bond. Youth Bureau Sgt. Dedrich Hohn said that Johnson, who is known to patrol officers in the South End of the city, was picked up at 2 a.m. Wednesday on Atlantic Street near Veteran's Park, where she met up with the youth before the alleged assault on April 26. Hohn said the patrol division was alerted to Johnson's arrest warrant on Monday night. The victim is a student with special needs, Hohn said. Hohn said that after meeting the youth a little after 7 p.m. at Veteran's Park on that April night, Johnson allegedly lured him into a men's room at the Stamford Town Center. Read more: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Stamford-transgender-person-charged-with-sexually-1414876.php#ixzz1Oj161fOb
ejota June 10, 2011 at 05:56 PM
Please fully read the link Dan posted regarding the attack in Stamford. Careful review indicates that the origin of this assault was not in a bathroom but in a public park. If this situation is to be considered validation against extending civil rights to transgendered and transexual people, they would need to be banned from all public areas. Perhaps that's where Rep Candelora and his coterie of conservatives are going with this?

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