House to Hold First-Ever Hearing on Transgender Rights

Hopefully the hearing will build the foundation for federal laws that protect transgender people from discrimination.

On Thursday the House will hold the first-ever Congressional hearing on transgender rights. Introduced by Congressman Rob Andrews, D-NJ, the hearing will examine discrimination faced by transgender people in the workplace.

Andrews' home state of New Jersey offers some workplace protections for transgender people: a law passed in 2006 prohibits discrimination based on "gender identity or expression" in employment, housing and public accommodations. But New Jersey is one of only 13 states (and the District of Columbia) with policies banning discrimination based on gender identity. Most other states have protections that only extend to gays, lesbians and bisexuals; gender identity is not included.

Past efforts to secure protections on the federal level for transgender people have not panned out. In 2007, Representatives Barney Frank (D-Mass), Chris Shays (R-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), designed to provide protections to LGBT people similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, the version of the bill that was finally passed excluded language protecting transgender people from workplace discrimination.

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