New Jersey Governor Signs GLBT-Inclusive Safe School Legislation
Today the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) applauded New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey for signing into law a bill requiring every school district in the state to adopt and implement an anti-harassment and bullying policy, including harassment based on sexual orientation and, after a strong push by state GLBT activists, gender identity or expression. The bill, which also requires the state's Department of Education to develop a model policy, passed unanimously in both houses of the legislature?on June 24, the New Jersey Senate voted 38-0 to approve the safe schools measure, on the heels of the June 20 Assembly vote of 74-0.
"This legislation is a critical stride forward for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people," said Lorri L. Jean, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "The unanimous passage of a transgender inclusive bill through two state legislative chambers is an overwhelming victory. That not one member voted against this bill is a testament to the fact that trans-inclusive grassroots organizing is an increasingly effective and successful strategy."
The New Jersey safe schools bill did not originally include gender identity or expression, but a coalition of state activists worked together to add this language to the bill while it was considered in committee. Staff of the NGLTF Transgender Civil Rights Project helped draft language for inclusion in the bill, and in addition testified in support of the bill in New Jersey before both the Senate and Assembly Education Committees, and also provided support to state activists working to pass the bill.
New Jersey law already prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in the education system. Recent New Jersey case law indicates that its sex discrimination provision should be interpreted to prohibit discrimination against transgender students as well.
Currently, two other states have either safe schools or educational anti-discrimination legislation that includes explicit transgender protection (CA and MN respectively). In all, seven states prohibit discrimination in education based on sexual orientation (CA, CT, NJ, MA, MN, VT, WI). In March 2002, the Washington State legislature passed a law that prohibits harassment based on sexual orientation.
NGLTF has taken a national role in increasing the number of state, local and federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender expression and identity. Through its Transgender Civil Rights Project, NGLTF works to increase the number of state, local and federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender expression and identity, to ensure that the entire range of gender non-conforming people are covered by such legislation. NGLTF helps activists and organizations to draft and pass legislation by evaluating and drafting clear and effective legislative language and amendments, and by addressing legal questions or concerns from legislators or councilpersons. NGLTF also provides advice to activists on forming and maintaining political coalitions and provides assistance with media and organization.