Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bishops' Letter Contributes Momentum on Trans Civil Rights in MA

As the Massachusetts Judiciary Committee pushed back its deadline for reporting on the Transgender Civil Rights Bill to early June, Boston-based LGBT paper Bay Windows has reported on two new voices of support, Boston City Council and the letter sent last week by Bishops M. Thomas Shaw and Roy "Bud" Cederholm (Bishop Gayle Harris did not sign because she had not yet returned from a leave of absence). Read the whole article here. Excerpts are reposted below.

I would like to add that the article cites Virtue online as the place from which it got the text of the letter. Virtue Online reprinted without acknowledgment my exact post (which I posted with permission from the Communications Office of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts to three blogs: TransEpiscopal, Walking with Integrity, and the Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality). This made it look as if Virtue Online actually had permission to post the letter, which it did not.


Transgender Rights Bill receives more support, extended deadline
by Hannah Clay Wareham
Associate Editor
Tuesday May 11, 2010

Amid resolutions and commendations, hopes are high for bill to pass.

Support for "An Act Relative to Gender-based Discrimination and Hate Crimes" (S. 1687/H. 1728), known as the Transgender Civil Rights Bill, is growing in Boston. The City Council last week passed a unanimous resolution backing the bill and joined the Episcopal Diocese of Masscahusetts in publicly voicing their support. The Transgender Rights Bill will remain under consideration by the Judiciary Committee for at least another month.

Gunner Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), said that the organization "is grateful for the continued support of the Boston City Council and hopes that our state leaders will follow this wise example and extend civil rights to our state’s transgender citizens."

The Transgender Civil Rights Bill offers crucial employment protections for transgender people and outlaw anti-transgender workplace discrimination. If the bill is passed, the category of "gender identity and expression" will be added to the Massachusetts hate crime, employment, housing, credit, public accommodations, and public education non-discrimination laws.

The legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary on May 6 extended the bill’s deadline, giving it at least another month to remain under consideration. The original deadline required that the bill be reported out of committee by May 7.

"As they say on ’Monty Python,’ we’re not dead yet," DeeDee Edmondson, political director of MassEquality, said. "The Judiciary Committee and our coalition [of organizations working together to pass the bill] now can get down to the business of producing a piece of legislation that can put transgender people back to work and bring stability and dignity to families throughout the Commonwealth."


On April 30, Episcopal Bishops M. Thomas Shaw and Roy "Bud" Cederholm of the Diocese of Massachusetts sent letters to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo urging the lawmakers to pass the Transgender Rights Bill. Attached were resolutions stating the full support of both the Episcopal Diocese of Masschusetts and the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

"As bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, our eyes are open to the realities of transgender people and their families," Shaw and Cederholm wrote in the letter, which was subsequently printed by VirtueOnline.org. "Many of them serve faithfully in the congregations and ministries of our diocese, as lay people, as deacons, and as priests. They are dedicated and loving parents, children, siblings, friends, and community leaders."

The letter encouraged lawmakers to act quickly in passing the bill. "Adding gender identity and expression to the state’s nondiscrimination and hate crimes laws is no isolated concern of a special interest group," the letter read. "The disproportionate suffering of transgender people should grieve the hearts of all who love justice and liberty."

The Transgender Rights Bill received an intensified focus from a wide variety of mainstream media outlets after Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker pledged on Saturday, April 17, that he would veto the bill if elected.

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