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Today is Thursday, June 26, 2008


Vermont Governor Vetoes Anti-Discrimination Legislation

H-865 Would Have Protected Vermonters from Discrimination Based on "Gender Identity or Expression"


On May 17, Governor James Douglas (R) vetoed the will of fair-minded Vermonters by killing H-865, a bill that had garnered strong support in the legislature. The bill would have added "gender identity or expression" to the states existing non-discrimination law. Vermont was poised to become the ninth state in the country to make discriminatory practices based on gender identity or expression illegal.

Earlier this month, a final 88-47 vote of concurrence in the state legislature had sent the bill to Governor Douglas for consideration. First introduced four years by lead sponsor Representative Bill Lippert (D- Hinesburg), the bill covered employment, housing and public accommodations, and was a reasonable step forward in providing equal protection under the law for all Vermonters. Vermonts hate crimes law already includes gender identity language.

Although eight states, the District of Columbia, and eighty cities and counties have sought to curb rampant discrimination by passing transgender- inclusive anti-discrimination laws, Vermonts bill was the third within a year to pass through legislatures only to be vetoed at the executive level. Last year, a bill that would have specifically banned employment discrimination based on gender identity or expression passed through Hawaiis legislature, but was vetoed by Governor Linda Lingle (R). However, Lingle allowed a bill providing protections in public accommodations to pass into law without her signature in May 2006. Colorado Governor Bill Owens (R) vetoed a non-discrimination bill in 2005 that would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to existing state non-discrimination laws.
We are very disappointed in Governor Douglass decision, said Christopher Kaufman, executive director of the R.U.1.2? Community Center in Burlington. This bill would have made a huge difference in the lives of transgender and gender non- conforming Vermonters in terms of the basic necessitiesaccess to jobs, housing and services.

We commend the powerful grassroots effort supporting this bill from the R.U.1.2? Community Center, TransAction, and other concerned Vermonters, said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Organizers in Vermont were successful in building support for the bill in both houses of the legislature and had a strong ally in Representative Lippert. It is unfortunate that Governor Douglas chose to deny much needed protections to transgender and gender non-conforming people in Vermont. The National Center for Transgender Equality held an advocacy training in Vermont to support local efforts in the state last February.

Recognizing the need to address pervasive discrimination against transgender people, currently eight states, the District of Columbia, and 80 cities and counties across the country have now passed explicitly transgender-inclusive anti-discrimination laws. These laws currently cover 31-percent of the US population.

The R.U.1.2? Community Center will hold a press conference on Thursday, May 18 at 12:00pm in their offices at 34 Elmwood Avenue, Burlington, VT to discuss the Governors veto and next steps. For more information on the press conference, please contact Christopher Kaufman at .

National Center for Transgender Equality
web: http://www.nctequality.org

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