Metro Weekly

Democrats Introduce a “Trans Bill of Rights”

The bill will attempt to codify a Supreme Court decision that established employee protections for gay and transgender workers.

Trans Pride Flag, Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office / Flickr

On Tuesday, Democratic House members released their plan for a “Transgender Bill of Rights” in an attempt to provide federal protections for transgender and gay Americans.

The bill will attempt to codify the Supreme Court’s 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County decision, which ruled that gay and transgender workers are protected from employment discrimination under the Civil Rights Act’s prohibitions against sex-based discrimination.

If passed, the bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to explicitly include gender identity and sex characteristics as protected categories under the law.

The measure would ban conversion therapy, ensure that transgender and nonbinary people have equal access to government services and public accommodations, codify protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and credit, and expand access to gender-affirming care. 

In addition, the bill would require the attorney general to designate a liaison within the Department of Justice to oversee the enforcement of civil rights for transgender people, would invest in anti-violence prevention programs and services for survivors of violence, and would provide support for mental health services designed for transgender and nonbinary people.

The bill would serve as a complement to the Equality Act, a national nondiscrimination bill that seeks to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in various aspects of life. Heretofore, some courts have been more amenable to finding that sexual orientation is protected under prohibitions on sex-based discrimination, but not gender identity. By explicitly mentioning gender identity and sex characteristics as protected categories, the bill leaves no room for ambiguity that could be exploited by judges who hold biases against transgender individuals.

It would also serve as a counter to the anti-transgender “Women’s Bill of Rights,” introduced earlier this year by congressional Republicans in an attempt to exclude transgender females from single-sex spaces that match their gender identity, ranging from sports teams to locker rooms to restrooms to homeless and domestic violence shelters designated for women. 

Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Co-Chair of the Transgender Equality Task Force, was a major player in crafting the Transgender Bill of Rights.

“As state legislatures across the country target our trans community with hateful, bigoted, and transphobic attacks, we are standing up and saying enough is enough,” Jayapal said in a joint statement with David Cicilline (RI), Marie Newman (IL), Mark Takano (CA), and Ritchie Torres (NY). The bill is currently backed by 89 members of the house. 

Our Trans Bill of Rights says clearly to the trans community across the country that we see you and we will stand with you to ensure you are protected and given the dignity and respect that every person should have,” Jayapal continued. 

Recently minority-protected rights have been called into question after the June 24 reversal of Roe v. Wade. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said that the reversal is grounds for reevaluation of other laws protecting LGBTQ Americans. 

“Every American should be free to live as their authentic self and free from discrimination — period,” said Congresswoman Marie Newman. “As the proud mother of a transgender daughter, I know personally just how crucial it is that we defend the human rights of our transgender community across the country.”

Supporters of the bill have cited research from the Human Rights Campaign showing that this year the most anti-LGBTQ laws have been passed ever. According to HRC, more than 300 pieces of legislation curtailing the rights of LGBTQ Americans have passed state legislatures this year alone. 

The bill is being supported by over 30 organizations including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Education Association, and the Gender Justice League.

“The ability for trans folks to live free from discrimination is quite literally a life-and-death issue,” Newman said. “I will keep fighting like hell for my daughter’s rights and the rights of transgender Americans across the country. I could not be prouder to join my colleagues in introducing this bill.”

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