Vermont Senate passes gender identity bill

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(Host) Last year, Governor Douglas vetoed a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against a person based on their gender identity.

But today in the Vermont Senate a new gender identity bill was approved.

And this time, because of some changes, the governor says it’s acceptable.

VPRs Bob Kinzel has the story.

(Kinzel) The vote in the Senate was unanimous – 26 in favor, none against.

The legislation amends Vermont’s anti discrimination laws in employment, housing and roughly 20 other areas to protect transsexual and transgender individuals.

Judiciary committee chairman Dick Sears says a recent case in Florida highlights the need for Vermont to adopt the bill:

(Sears) “A man who was town manager of his city for 22 years or so gets fired because he decides to go through a sex change. Everything it seemed about the individual was good, doing a good job. It seems like discrimination ought to be not something that we can tolerate no matter who that discrimination is against.”

(Kinzel) Sears says his committee did make a number of small changes to satisfy some members of the state’s business community:

(Sears) “Some of the changes from last year it provides some clear definitions that the workplace rules about dress code and so forth can be enforced and it takes out the word ‘gender expression’ which is really difficult to define and I think a lot of people had some difficulty with it’s clear to me… that this is the right things to do at this time in this state.”

(Kinzel) Last year Governor Jim Douglas vetoed a similar piece of legislation because he said some sections were ambiguous and confusing.

Douglas says the new bill is better:

(Douglas) “I met with some of the advocates myself. I wanted to be sure that it met the objective of prohibiting discrimination without being too broadly worded. I haven’t looked at the final text but I believe it’s in a format that I would find acceptable.”

(Kinzel) The legislation is scheduled to come up for final approval in the Senate on Friday.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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