Vermont governor vetoes transgender protections

Gov. James Douglas vetoed a bill on Wednesday that would have added “gender identity or expression” to the state’s existing nondiscrimination law.

BY admin

May 19 2006 12:00 AM ET

Vermont's
Republican governor, James Douglas, vetoed a bill on
Wednesday that would have added “gender
identity or expression” to the state’s
existing nondiscrimination law and would have made Vermont
the ninth state with such a provision. "Discrimination
in Vermont is unacceptable, and our state has a long,
healthy, and proud history of acceptance and
tolerance," Douglas said in his veto message on the
measure.

But this bill
"makes significant revisions to all of Vermont's
antidiscrimination laws in order to include, as a protected
class, individuals who do not conform to sexual
stereotypes," he added. "I am concerned that [the
bill] did not receive the kind of careful scrutiny and
study that would be expected prior to making major
modifications to Vermont's antidiscrimination laws."

According to a
report by the the Barre Montpelier Times Argus,
Douglas's veto was greeted with disappointment from one
of the state's largest advocacy groups for lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender people, which pushed hard
for the law. "We're obviously disappointed that the
governor has perhaps not taken the time he needed to
learn about the bill," said Christopher Kauffman, head of
the RU12? Community Center in Burlington. "The
legislature obviously felt very strongly that they
wanted to offer these protections. Too bad the
governor didn't also take this view."

Jason Gibbs,
Douglas's press secretary, said the governor was unavailable
for comment but scoffed at the notion that the governor
wasn't concerned about discrimination. Had the bill
been better worded and afforded more time in the
legislative process, the governor would have been more
likely to sign it, Gibbs said.

As it is, the
governor said in his veto message that he believed current
law already provides protections against discrimination
based on gender expression. "Our current
antidiscrimination laws have, to date, provided
protection to the individuals that would have been covered"
under the bill, Douglas wrote. He said the attorney
general's office has filed two complaints in which
transgender people claimed they were discriminated
against. He added, however, that the definition of
"identity or expression" in the bill "is ambiguous and
potentially more far-reaching...and raises many questions
with regards to its breadth, its implementation, and
its enforcement." (The Advocate)

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