by Taylor Stanley and Shannon Turner
June 26, 2013, marked an important day for the LGBTQ community. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and effectively struck down California’s Proposition 8. But while the LGBTQ community continues to make progress toward marriage equality, the transgender community continues to face adversity.
As of July 2013, only 17 states and the District of Columbia have laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. An additional 4 states provide protection solely on the grounds of sexual orientation. Another 9 states only extend protections for transgender persons to public employees.
Despite making major advances in recent years, the transgender community continues to face an uphill battle in their fight for equal legal protections. Currently, firing someone based solely on suspicion of being transgender is legal in 33 states. For now the major national focus is on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which was reintroduced in Congress in April. With 52 sponsors in the Senate and 178 in the House, ENDA would extend employment discrimination protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. July 10, the bill passed through the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in a 15 to 7 vote. This is not the first time ENDA has been introduced in a congressional session. In fact, the last time ENDA had a vote on the House or Senate floor was November 2007, when it passed through the House.
As transgender activists continue to fight for equality on the national level, there have been significant legislative actions in state houses across the country. Here’s a rundown of important developments in transgender law and policy you might have missed:
Arizona: In March, state Rep. John Kavanagh introduced legislation that ties public bathroom use to birth certificates. The bill would only allow people to use public restrooms based on the gender listed on their birth certificate. While the bill passed through a state panel in a 7-4 vote, Rep. Kavanagh announced in June that the legislation would be tabled until 2014.
California: In early July, the California state Senate voted to pass a K-12 transgender rights bill. The new law allows transgender children to use restrooms as well as participate in athletic teams and other sex-segregated activities according to their gender identity.
Colorado: A civil rights panel in Colorado determined that a six-year-old transgender girl was discriminated against by her school district when they prohibited her from using the girls’ restroom. Coy’s parents raised concerns that by forcing Coy to use the teachers’ and nurse’s office restrooms, the district was leaving Coy open to ridicule and stigmatization.
Delaware: In June, Gov. Jack Markell signed into law a bill that outlaws discrimination against transgender people. The law protects them against discrimination in regards to insurance, employment, housing and various public accommodations.
Maryland: State Senators Rich Madaleno and Jamie Raskin introduced The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013 in January. The bill, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, had 22 co-sponsors but never made it past committee.
Massachusetts: This February, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that transgender students are allowed to play on sports teams and use restrooms according to their gender identity.
Hearings on the Equal Access Bill were held July 9, protecting the right for transgender people to have equal access to public accommodations including hospitals, public transportation, nursing homes, supermarkets and other retail establishments, and all other places open to the public. The bill was filed by four state senators and cosponsored by an additional 55 senators and representatives.
Nebraska: In January, the Omaha Liberty Project failed to gather enough signatures in a city-wide petition that would allow people to vote to repeal the law protecting residents based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
New York: The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), first introduced in 2003 and passed through the state Assembly a total of six times since 2008, has never made it to the state Senate floor. This year the state Assembly passed the bill along to the Senate in an overwhelming 85 to 46 vote. Despite the Senate’s repeated inaction, the movement for transgender rights in New York shows no signs of stopping.
Nevada: On May 21, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval signed SB139, which adds gender identity and expression to Nevada’s hate crimes law.
Oregon: In June, Gov. Kitzhaber signed legislation into law allowing transgender persons to change their gender on their birth certificate without proof of surgery.
Texas: In May, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 1218, taking away the right for transgender people to get married. The bill required a photo ID in order to obtain a marriage license. The bill singles out the transgender community by removing a standing provision that allows an affidavit of sex change to be used to receive a marriage license to marry an opposite-sex partner. Since Texas also prohibits marriage equality, SB 1218 would have effectively barred transgender individuals from marrying at all. Despite making it through the state Senate, the bill failed in a House committee.