Hawaii Legislature passes employment protections for gender identity and expression

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force applauds the Hawaii Senate’s passage today of legislation prohibiting employment discrimination based on gender identity and expression. The vote was 22-2. The protections are added to the employment section of the state’s nondiscrimination law, which already covers housing and public accommodation discrimination based on gender identity and expression. The House passed the bill on March 4 with a vote of 42-4. Gov. Neil Abercrombie is expected to sign it.

According to Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force with the National Center for Transgender Equality, employment discrimination and its resultant poverty affecting transgender and gender non-conforming people is a vast problem throughout the U.S. For example, the new study found that 50 percent of those surveyed said they experienced harassment on the job; 26 percent reported losing a job just because of who they are; and the rate of respondents who reported living with a household income of $10,000 or less was nearly four times the national rate.

Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said:

We applaud the Hawaii Legislature for addressing the very real problem of discrimination against transgender people in employment. The startling statistics and heart-wrenching personal stories found in our national survey on transgender discrimination show just how necessary these protections are. No one should fear being jobless, homeless and going hungry because of bias and discrimination at work. We thank Rep. Blake Oshiro, Equality Hawaii, Pride at Work Hawaii, and the many LGBT community members and allies in Hawaii who shepherded this measure to success. We look forward to the governor’s signature on this critically important bill.

The Task Force has assisted various transgender rights activists, allies and LGBT organizations over the past several years with passage of this and various other pieces of transgender rights legislation, including the addition of “gender identity or expression” to the hate crimes law in 2003; passage of LGBT housing protections in 2005; and public accommodations protections in 2006.