New Law Backs Transgender Residents

Ethan St. PierreIn many states, transgender rights are slow to come by. While differences in sexual orientation may be protected from discrimination, gender identity is often left untouched. This was the case in Massachusetts until this very week. Ethan St. Pierre, a transgender Massachusetts resident, was fired from his job during his transition and was left without any legal protections. His employer emphasized that St. Pierre was not fired for being a lesbian, as his co-workers originally knew him, but for his transition making him “unable to work effectively.” The presence of unjust scenarios such as St. Pierre’s prompted the creation of the Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Act. This bill, which was signed into law on Sunday, makes employment, housing, education, and lending discrimination on the basis of gender identity illegal in the state of Massachusetts. It also allows for crimes committed against a person for being transgender to be prosecuted as hate crimes. This new legislation brings much needed protections for the transgender community in Massachusetts. We hope this can signal similar, and possibly more comprehensive, legislation in others states to combat transgender discrimination.

Read below for an excerpt from the story:

When Ethan St. Pierre began the transition to life as a man a decade ago, the Haverhill resident didn’t think the change would cost him his job as a supervisor for a security company.

St. Pierre, whom his co-workers had known as a woman, had received raises and positive performance reviews, and when he told colleagues of his plans, most seemed unfazed, said Pierre, now 50.

So when his employer fired him two years later, telling him the transition had left St. Pierre unable to perform effectively, he felt stunned.

“I was such a hard worker,” said St. Pierre, now an outspoken transgender rights advocate. “And they only cared about this one thing that really had nothing to do with my job.”

Back then, transgender Massachusetts residents like St. Pierre had little legal recourse. But as of Sunday, discrimination on the basis of gender identity is illegal in the state, just as it is on the basis of race or disability.

The Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Act bars discrimination in employment, housing, education, and lending. The law also enables prosecutors to bring hate crime charges in attacks that target someone for being transgender.

Supporters praised the law on Sunday as a significant step that will allow transgender residents to live more openly.

“This a tremendously historic and life-changing day for transgender people across the state, and really for anybody that values fairness,” said Kara Suffredini, executive director of MassEquality, one of the organizations that lobbied for the law.

The law, which makes the state the 16th to enact a law protecting rights of transgender residents, took effect Sunday, seven months after its passage and five years after proponents first filed it.

Governor Deval Patrick signed the law Nov. 23 after it passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives by a vote of 95-58 and the Massachusetts Senate approved it with a voice vote.

After the votes, opponents blasted legislators for cutting off debate before those opposed could introduce additional amendments.

The leader of one group in opposition, MassResistance, repeated on Sunday his opposition to the law.

“What this bill does, it not only reinforces it [transgenderism], but it uses the force of law to force society to integrate it into society as if it were normal,” said the group’s director, Brian Camenker.

That integration concerns Camenker, who describes transgender identity as a disorder.

But integration is what many advocates of the law are hoping for. . . .

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