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Testimony in Opposition to SB 566/HB 474: Transgender Discrimination

By Mary Ellen Russell, Executive Director

House Health and Government Operations (02/25/09) and Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee (03/04/09)

Consistent with our long-standing advocacy on behalf of society’s most vulnerable and marginalized persons, the Church recognizes the intent of this legislation to uphold the dignity and value of every individual. In keeping with that principle, the Church firmly opposes undue harassment or discrimination against any person.

That principle does not, however, warrant creating an entirely new class of protected individuals in the state’s anti-discrimination statute, especially when the extension of the law would presumably apply to only a small number of individuals. Such an expansion of the statute could just as reasonably apply to individuals who suffer ill treatment for a variety of reasons related to their physical characteristics or appearance. The impossibility of clearly defining “gender identity” as a newly protected category in law, and the practical application of this legislation is also highly problematic, particularly with regard to the use of same-sex public facilities, dormitories, and other situations involving public accommodations.

Our greatest concern regarding this legislation, however, rests in our emphatic opposition to the bill’s attempt to enshrine in law a distinction between one’s “gender identity” and one’s “assigned sex at birth.” Such a distinction manifests an egregious violation of our society’s basic understanding of the human person, and the complementarity of the sexes bestowed by nature that lies at the foundation of all human society.

Regardless of its intention, SB 566 is a seriously misguided attempt to undermine in law a recognition of the inextricable link between a person’s human nature and his or her identity as a man or woman. We urge you to oppose this legislation.