This is shaping up to be an interesting year for the Connecticut General Assembly.  The budget forecasts are projecting massive deficits.  As a result, I would not be surprised to see the budget debates dominating the agenda of the Connecticut legislature.

Nevertheless, other bills will still be proposed, debated, and certainly  passed during the several months that the Connecticut legislature is in session.  Advocates for a transgender anti-discrimination bill believe this is finally the year for passage oCopyright 2008, Daniel A. Schwartzf such a bill. 

According to this morning’s Courant:

Transgender activists believe this is the year they will gain equal protection under the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

"We feel good," said Jerimarie Liesegang, who leads the Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition. "We’ve done the groundwork, we’ve done the education and we know we have the votes."

A proposal, to be introduced in the legislative session that begins Wednesday, would prevent people who in any way blur gender lines from being discriminated against in the workplace or while seeking housing or obtaining credit. More than a dozen states, including California, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon and Rhode Island, have enacted similar laws.

Bills that bar discrimination based on gender identity or expression have come up several times over the past few years, but failed to win passage. In 2007, both the judiciary committee and the Senate approved such a bill, but it died in the House of Representatives.

I’ve previously discussed this proposal in various posts here.  Although same-sex marriages were legalized last year by the Connecticut Supreme Court, the legislature didn’t pass the concept earlier.  Thus, I think the transgender/gender identity bill still faces some more hurdles because the concept remains foreign to many people.  (You can educate yourself with some useful materials from the Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition) Some raise issues of who gets to use the restroom in the workplace (and when), but these probably can be worked out if people spent some time addressing it.

Because the bill died in the House of Representative last year and with the legislative facing huge issues of how to fix the budget, I have a tough time believing that legislative leaders will want to use political capital pushing this bill, no matter how noble they believe the cause is.  The votes may be there, but the energy may not.

For employers in Connecticut that have an gender identity-related issue arise in their employment, seek some legal counsel. Just because it may not be illegal to discriminate, doesn’t mean the employer can’t work out a sensible solution to some issues (or that other legal issues may not be implicated).  Indeed, some employers in Connecticut have their own anti-discrimination pledges that cover gender identity as a protected class.