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Democrats Reintroduce Federal Trans Bill of Rights Amid GOP Attacks

The bill declares the federal government has a duty to protect trans and nonbinary people from discrimination.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D) holds a press conference with local transgender rights advocates to celebrate the introduction of the Trans Bill of Rights, which offers a framework for protecting the rights of transgender and non-binary people, on August 15, 2022, in downtown Seattle, Washington.

Congressional Democrats on Thursday reintroduced a bill to codify federal protections for transgender Americans, as a number of states have passed anti-trans legislation and the Republican-controlled U.S. House is advancing restrictions.

The Transgender Bill of Rights, introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts ahead of the International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, declares that the federal government has a duty to protect trans and nonbinary people as they experience discrimination in their day-to-day lives.

Increased federal protections are necessary in response to state lawmakers introducing hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, the bill reads, and as “the right of transgender and nonbinary people to seek lifesaving gender-affirming care is under threat across the United States.”

The bill would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, enforce prohibitions on discrimination in health care on the basis of gender identity and amend federal education laws to ensure that trans students are protected from discrimination. It specifically allows students to join sports teams that match their gender identity, a move that would undercut bans passed by conservative legislatures across the country.

“Day after day, we see a constant onslaught of anti-trans rhetoric and legislation coming from elected officials. Today we say enough is enough,” Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and co-chair of the Transgender Equality Task Force, said in a statement.

For Jayapal, the issue is personal because her daughter is transgender.

“I think she’s really proud that I’m here fighting for her, and she allowed me to talk about her, because she knows that it is personal for so many people,” Jayapal told The 19th this month. “But it’s very difficult, when you have Republicans saying they want to eradicate trans people. And we already know that rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, are so much higher for trans people, and trans kids in particular.”

Since taking control of the House this year, Republicans have moved to advance a national ban on transgender girls joining school sports that match their gender identity, as well as a bill that would require elementary schools to obtain parental consent before allowing students to use locker rooms or bathrooms that match their gender identity or changing students’ pronouns on school forms. LGBTQ+ advocates have denounced both bills. Separately, GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia earlier this month reintroduced legislation to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

Any legislation to either protect or restrict the rights of trans people needs to make it through both the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The previous Transgender Bill of Rights stalled in the last Congress after being referred to the House subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties.

Markey, who pushed federal agencies last fall to loosen restrictions on testosterone to make it easier for trans people to access, said in a statement that lawmakers have a moral obligation to defend the fundamental rights of transgender people against violence and discrimination.

“Lives are at stake. The health, safety and freedom of trans people are at stake. Congress must take a stand in the face of dangerous, transphobic attacks waged by far-right state legislatures and once again reaffirm our nation’s bedrock commitment to equality and justice for all,” he said.

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