Connecticut Enacts Legislation Protecting Transgendered

Mon. May 24, 2004 12:00 AM

Providence, RI - On Friday, May 21, Republican Gov. John Rowland put pen to paper and signed a bill that will extend anti-violence laws to cover crimes committed against transgendered and disabled citizens in Connecticut. The National Transgender Advocacy Coalition celebrated the enactment, and simultaneously issued a call for amendment and enactment of a similarly defined bill on the federal level.

Connecticut initially passed a hate crimes law based upon race, sexual orientation or gender back in 1987. Jerimarie Liesegang, Director of the Connecticut Trans Advocacy Coalition, called the passage "a powerful and empowering message to our community and its people."

Thirty states have hate crimes laws on the books and about half of them include the disabled. Connecticut now becomes the eighth state in the nation with hate-crimes laws that protect transgender citizens. According to Bethany Hamilton of the Connecticut Women's Education & Legal Fund, there will not be a gubernatorial signing ceremony.

Upon CTAC's victorious efforts, NTAC issued a statement strongly urging the U.S. Congress to include explicit transgender inclusion and immediately pass the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act - also known as the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the House.

"The National Transgender Advocacy Coalition has long recognized the need for a meaningful deterrent to hate-based violence in the United States. We are also painfully aware of the effects of such violence on the transgender community, as well as the disproportionate amount of such violence directed at the transgender community. In addition, studies of trends, such as one released by the National Coalition for Anti-Violence Project, clearly demonstrate the correlation of violence against the overall GLBT community immediately following high-publicity, emotionally-charged subjects such as last year's Supreme Court decision striking down state sodomy laws exclusively targeting same-sex partners.

"With the tendency this upcoming election season to focus on same-sex marriage issues as a political litmus test to polarize sentiment between the conservatives and progressives, the prospect for more of the same "backlash" violence is both likely and alarming. We at the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition feel the time for discussion or politicizing this issue has long-since expired. Passage of this vital protection is urgently needed, and the issue of including transgenders in this legislation is non-negotiable. Transgendered citizens should be explicitly included in this Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and this bill should be reactivated, voted upon and enacted immediately."

Vanessa Edwards Foster, Chair of NTAC, added that, "any attempts to retard [the Hate Crimes] effort will be exposed. With the ongoing violence such as the murder of Precious Armani in Atlanta and the shooting of the transgendered teen in Brooklyn, inaction is unacceptable and irresponsible," Foster added. "Heartless ideologues and gutless wonders have been obstacles for far too long."

In an interview two months ago, CTAC's Liesegang noted how they "worked hard and effectively over the last few years" leading up to the Connecticut legislative victory. A former board member and Activism Chair of NTAC, Liesegang, recognized the historic first step last October, when she was able to evince a "landmark Pride Day Proclamation" from the governor. In a historic first, the gubernatorial proclamation for last year's Pride Day Celebration recognized "the Transgender and Intersex communities."