In testimony submitted to a hearing of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Senator John Kerry today urged the Massachusetts State Legislature to pass the Transgender Equal Rights Bill. This legislation would add "gender identity and expression" to Massachusetts civil rights laws that currently protect people from discrimination because of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, or marital status.
"Massachusetts has always been a national leader on LGBT rights and by holding this hearing and considering this bill, you are sending a powerful message to the rest of the country that we will continue to lead the way in ensuring equal rights for all," Senator Kerry said. "The Transgender Equal Rights Bill before the committee not only would show that we care but that we will not tolerate or ignore hurtful discrimination of any segment of our population."
Senator Kerry's full testimony is below:
I want to thank the Joint Committee on the Judiciary for holding this hearing today and for allowing me to submit testimony on this important subject. As you know, I have long supported the transgender community of Massachusetts, so I am pleased to add my voice in support of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill before you.
Massachusetts has always been a national leader on LGBT rights and by holding this hearing and considering this bill, you are sending a powerful message to the rest of the country that we will continue to lead the way in ensuring equal rights for all.
Discrimination of transgendered people is widespread and ignoring it is simply not an option. It is an especially serious problem in schools where bullying can have dire and sometimes deadly consequences for our youth. But discrimination of transgendered people is not limited to certain age groups and certain environments. It is everywhere. The statistics are staggering -- over three quarters of transgendered people have reported some sort of harassment or mistreatment simply because of who they are. The rates for transgendered youth are slightly higher. However, numbers hardly tell the whole story. They fail to measure the damage each incident has on someone, the burden that every victim of harassment, discrimination, and violence carries with them for the rest of their lives. Consider this consequence --nearly four out of 10 transgender Bay Staters attempt suicide at some point in their lives, 22 times the rate of the general population. That is unacceptable, especially when it is within our power to prevent such tragedies.
The Transgender Equal Rights Bill before the committee not only would show that we care but that we will not tolerate or ignore hurtful discrimination of any segment of our population. The legislation would do so in a simple and easy way -- by adding "gender identity and expression" to protections that already exist in Massachusetts law. By adding this definition, Massachusetts would join 10 other states and the District of Columbia in protecting people in this important way. Providing transgendered individuals in Massachusetts the legal protections so many of us take for granted will bring us closer to the ideal that all people will be equal and protected under law.
I applaud and thank the Committee and the Massachusetts legislature for considering this critically important legislation. It's inspiring to see that Massachusetts continues to look to positive changes that we can make to protect and enhance the lives of the citizens of the Commonwealth. On the federal level, I pledge to do all I can to support the initiative that you are examining here today -- by continuing to educate my colleagues in the Senate and by supporting legislation with a positive national impact such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.