Blog Posts for Connecticut
One of the great things about living in New England is that all six states offer anti-discrimination protections for LGBT employees and workers who are living with HIV. Most workers are “employees at will” and can be fired or discriminated against by their employer for any reason or no reason at all. However, states have identified “protected characteristics” and made it illegal to fire or discriminate against an employee just because they possess, or are perceived to possess, one or more of those characteristics. For lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) workers, the protected characteristic is “sexual orientation,” for workers living with HIV, “disability,” and for transgender workers, “gender identity.”
GLAD recently provided assistance to a man charged with a serious crime—who spent over a month in jail as a result—simply because he is HIV-positive. Since then, I have been thinking about the necessity of education, particularly when it aims to dispel wholly unfounded beliefs.
In a guest post at Pam’s House Blend, GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer L. Levi dispels concerns about the definition of “gender identity or expression” included in Connecticut’s new anti-discrimination law.
This week, GLAD, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and NCLR’s National Family Law Advisory Council released a revised version of Protecting Families: Standards for LGBT Families, a set of 10 guidelines aimed at reminding LGBT people how important it is to legally protect the families they create and to caution parents against wielding anti-LGBT laws against their partner should their relationship break-up. Basically, we’re calling on the members of our community—and their lawyers—to fight fairly and to do their best to avoid damaging custody disputes. As GLAD’s Mary Bonauto writes in her introduction to the standards, “We believe that, even in the midst of the emotional upheaval that inevitably accompanies the end of the adult relationship, families can do a great deal to resolve their differences in a manner that puts their children first.”
I could hardly believe that the moment for which I’d waited nearly six years had arrived. H.B. 6599, Connecticut’s transgender civil rights bill, had passed the House of Representatives nearly two weeks ago and I’d been waiting impatiently for it to be run in the Senate. But each time I e-mailed Betty Gallo, our staunch lobbyist who’s been tirelessly working this bill for years, there was little to report. I sent her a short e-mail earlier in the day asking, “Any info on timing?” She quickly replied, “No.” Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about the bill when I left work that afternoon for my son’s baseball game. But when the call came from Jerimarie Liesegang, head of the Connecticut Transgender Advocacy Coalition (also a visionary, tireless and devoted advocate), I knew I needed to get there quickly.
On Monday, I testified before the Connecticut Legislature’s Judiciary Committee in favor H.B. 6599, “An Act Concerning Discrimination,” which would add the phrase gender identity and expression in Connecticut’s non-discrimination laws. My prepared testimony was just about two minutes, but I spent the next hour on the hot seat, fielding questions from committee members about the bill and how, when adopted as law, it would be enforced. That is as it should be. It’s important to let those who are just learning about transgender people’s lives ask of all their questions and have them answered in a reasoned, thoughtful way.
It’s everyone’s favorite time of year. At least there is some good news for transgender tax payers this year. But still the same bad news for married same sex couples.
Courts have found that laws that discriminate against certain groups of people are more likely to reflect prejudice against that group than they are good public policy. Rather than being assumed to be constitutional, such laws need to be justified with exceptionally good reasons. This is called “heightened scrutiny” and has, for example, been used in cases where a racial group is being discriminated against. GLAD has consistently argued in the courts that sexual orientation deserves “heightened scrutiny.” So it was an enormous breakthrough last week when the President and the Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed with GLAD on that point- and because of that also agreed that DOMA is unconstitutional.
On the heels of the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) announcement last week that it would no longer defend DOMA against legal challenges by GLAD and other organizations, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) issued an action alert urging members to immediately call their congressional reps to demand they defend the odious law.
“It’s a constitutional outrage,” NOM President Brian Brown wrote in the alert. “Why do we even have courts if the President himself gets to decide which laws are constitutional?” (Emphasis added).
Given the breaking news that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will no longer defend Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I wanted to let you know what that really means to the two lawsuits GLAD currently has in the federal courts trying to overturn DOMA—Gill and Pedersen .