US states introduce transgender protections

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Two US states have made historic strides in protecting the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Hawaii and Vermont, have in the past week introduced laws to include, protect and support transgender people.

Hawaii’s second transgender-inclusive bill passed into law, followed by an expansive non-discrimination bill in Vermont clearing the Legislature, positioning Vermont to become the ninth state in America 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 Hawaii and Vermont represent huge civil rights victory for the transgender community,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Centre 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, theatres, and schools.

The law strengthens Hawaii’s existing protections, building on the state’s housing non-discrimination bill, which passed into law just last year.

The Vermont bill will prohibit discrimination based on a person’s gender identity or expression passed.

“I am so excited,” said Christopher Kaufman, executive director of the R.U.1.2? Queer Community Centre 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.

Recognising the need to curb rampant discrimination against gender-variant people, currently eight states, the District of Columbia and 80 US cities and counties have now passed explicitly transgender-inclusive anti-discrimination laws. These laws currently cover 31% of the US population.

Meanwhile Ms Keisling has been named Outstanding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Person of the Year by a Harvard University gay group.