Every day for the past two weeks since the House passed the gender inclusive anti-discrimination bill, HB6599, we thought that today going to be the day. Every day I checked the Connecticut General Assembly website looking for clues if today was going to be the day. Every day I watched the Connecticut Public Affairs Network’s Senate channel. Last night was no different, I was reading and I had C-TN on in the background and the Senate was in caucus so they were playing classical music. Around ten o’clock I heard the Senate clerk announce that the Senate will convene! Then I heard the clerk read the agenda… House Bill 6599. WHOA!!! That is us! I watched the debate begin, sent out some emails and posted on Facebook while I was getting dress. I drove up to the Capitol.
When I got there Jerimarie from Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition (CTAC), Sally from ctEQUALITY, and Gretchen from Planned Parenthood were there already and a few minutes later Jennifer from the Gay Lesbian Advocate and Defenders (GLAD) arrived. I had been involved with the legislation since 2006, and Jerimarie and Jennifer were there from the beginning when the Hate Crime bill was first introduced and now we were there at the end.
The first amendment that was offered was about sex-segregated facilities and would have required everyone to use the facility of their birth gender. Sen. Beth Bye (D) asked the amendment’s author if he had ever to have to use the women’s bathroom because men’s room was too crowded, Sen. Welch (R) said no. Sen. Bye then went on to say that women do it all the time when the lines are too long in the women’s room and she said that the amendment would now make that illegal. Also speaking against the amendment was Sens. Cassano (D) and Coleman (D). The amendment was defeated, Yeas 15, Nays 21.
The next amendment offered was the teacher amendment, which would have allowed schools to transfer a teacher out of the classroom while they were transitioning. The amendment was introduced by Sen. Kissel (R) and once against Sen. Bye spoke passionately against the amendment, she said that when sexual orientation was being added to the anti-discrimination statutes back in the 90’s the opposition used the same arguments about gays in the classroom. The amendment was defeated, Yeas 16, Nays 20.
During all the debates on the amendments in the Senate, only two or three spoke in favor of or against the bill, the whole debate on the bill went rather quickly as opposed to the House where it seemed that everyone want to have their say on the bill. In the Senate, there was actually more backroom discussion on the bill that allowed for each side to have their say and then they voted on the bill. The House voted on three amendments and it took around five hours, while in the Senate they voted on four amendments and it took around two and a half hours.
The next amendment was introduced by Sen. Kissel and it was,
Any person who falsely exhibits a gender identity or expression, either through appearance or behavior, that is different from that traditionally associated with the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth, solely for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a crime, shall, in lieu of the sentence of imprisonment authorized by section 53a-35a of the general statutes for the crime of which such person stands convicted, be subject to the sentence of imprisonment authorized by said section for the next more serious degree of misdemeanor or felony, as the case may be, except that if the crime is a class A misdemeanor, such person shall be subject to the sentence of imprisonment authorized by said section for a class D felony.
After a short debate, it was also defeated, Yeas 14, Nays 20.
Then they started to bring the bill to a vote, but they were interrupted by Sen. Roraback (R) who introduced an amendment that would limit the bill to an employer with 15 employees or more. That was also defeated 15 – 19 after a very short debate.
They then started to talk about the bill when once again they were interrupted by the introduction of an amendment, Sen. Witkos (R). The amendment was…
Any person holding a motor vehicle operator's license whose gender-related identity is different from that traditionally associated with the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth shall notify the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles of such identity and the commissioner shall indicate such identity in the electronic record maintained by the commissioner pertaining to such person's operator's license.
When he was introducing the bill he got a strong stare by the Senate Minority Leader Sen. Kissel, you could tell he was displeased with the senator. The amendment was defeated Yeas 8, Nays 26 with many of the Republicans voting against the amendment. During the debate Sen. Sunzio (R) asked Sen. Witkos police procedures if he (Sen. Witkos is an Avon police officer) was called to a disturbance with a man dressed as a woman in a bathroom. Sen. Witkos explained that this amendment who help us because it would allow police officers to better assess the situation and it was not meant to be a “Scarlet Letter”. Well Senator, maybe you don’t see it as a “Scarlet Letter” coming from a place of power, but I see it a branding us for life.
Finally, the bill came up for debate. While it was being debated, Andrew McDoanld came up to the Senate Gallery to talk to us; Andrew is the former co-chair of the Judiciary Committee along with Mike Lawlor, both of whom now work for the governor. Andrew is now the governor’s chief legal counsel. I remember back when I first met him, Mike and the Governor in 2005, it was at a fundraiser for GenderPAC and they were still legislators and the governor was the mayor of Stamford. We were also joined by Andrew from the CT chapter of the ACLU. The bill was only debated for about 15 – 20 minutes and when the vote came it was 20 Yeas, 16 Nays, the vote was along party lines. We all started clapping and jumping up and down and hugging and just creating merriment.
We all went out into the hallway where the celebration continued; meanwhile the opposition sneaked by us and slither off. So far they have remained quiet and have not issued a statement.
The governor has been behind this bill all the way and he has been the driving force that kept the bill moving and he issued a statement
This bill is another step forward in the fight for equal rights for all of Connecticut’s citizens, and it’s the right thing to do. It’s difficult enough for people who are grappling with the issue of their gender identity, and discrimination against them has no place in our society. Connecticut has lead the way in other civil rights issues and I’m proud to be able to support and sign this bill.
I just wanted to say that was not one person’s effort, nor an organization effort, but was a grassroots effort with many people from many organizations, and individuals who all helped.
Photo: Diana (CTAC), Sally (ctEQUALITY) Jennifer (GLAD) Betty (Gallo & Co.) and Gretchen (Planned Parenthood) Missing from photo Jerimarie (CTAC) who was being interviewed and Andrew (ACLU/CT)
These are just some of the organizations that have helped…
CT TransAdvocacy Coalition
CT Women's Education and Legal Fund
Planned Parenthood of Southern New England
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
Anti-Defamation League CT
New Haven Pride Center
CT Sexual Assault Crisis Services
Transitioning and Loving Life (TaLL)
True Colors Sexual Minority Youth and Family Services
CT American Civil Liberties Union
CT Outreach Society
NARAL Pro-Choice CT
The Connecticut Alliance for Business Opportunities
UConn Rainbow Center
UConn Women's Center
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Unitarian Universalist Society: East
Permanent Commission on the Status of Women
New England Healthcare Employees Union SEIU 1199NE
CT Citizen Action Group
National Council of Jewish Women (CT)
CT Chapter of the National Organization for Women
Triangle Community Center
CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence
CT Clergy for Full Equality
CT Latina/os Achieving Rights & Opportunities
Human Rights Campaign CT
PFLAG Southeastern CT
City of Hartford Commission on LGBT Issues
National Association of Social Workers (CT Chapter)
City of Norwalk, Human Relations Commission
Thank you all! <3 br="">
Tomorrow night I celebrated with a lobster dinner.3>