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Vermont governor
vetoes transgender protections

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.

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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