Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rep. Barney Frank Putting the T in LGBT Rights [Pam's House Blend]

Congressman Barney Frank today released his testimony in favor of a Massachusetts bill which would extend legal protections which now cover gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals to also include transgender people.  The testimony was presented in writing to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary, which is holding a hearing on the legislation today.

In his testimony, Frank draws parallels between struggles to achieve equal rights for transgender individuals and earlier battles for gay rights.  In 1973, when Frank was closeted gay man and a state representative in the Massachusetts legislature, he introduced the first gay rights bill in Massachusetts history.  The bill was defeated that year but Frank introduced it every session until he left the legislature.  It was defeated every time.  The first gay rights bill was finally passed in Massachusetts in 1989, when Frank was already a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In his testimony, Frank writes that early critics of gay rights, who predicted widespread social disruption, were proven by history to have been wrong - and that those who currently argue against similar rights for transgender people also be likely to be proven wrong.  Furthermore, he states, transgender people "seek no special privilege; they have no wish to disrupt anybody else's lives; they only want to be able to live their own with a degree of freedom from unfair restrictions or hurtful actions by others."

In the US Congress, Frank has not only been the leading advocate of equal rights for gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, but has also worked to win those rights for transgender people.  In 2009, he was a major force behind the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S.909).  Also in 2009, he introduced a "fully-inclusive" Employment Non-Discrimination which would extend employment protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.  After the bill failed to garner enough support to guarantee passage in 2010, Frank introduced the same legislation in 2011. The bill already has 142 cosponsors.

Frank concludes his written testimony stating that:

"I very much hope that the Commonwealth will once again show its aversion to prejudice and its compassion for people who have been its victims, and extend to people who are transgender the same legal rights that the rest of us now enjoy."

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