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    Monday, March 20, 2023

    Where Connecticut stands on LGBTQIA+ rights

    While state legislatures in conservative states are moving to limit discussion on gender identity and sexual orientation, Connecticut remains one of the more progressive states for LGBTQIA+ rights. 

    Florida and other conservative states have introduced and passed a spate of what have become known as “Don’t Say Gay” laws.

    A bill signed into law in Florida earlier this year states, "Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

    Alabama passed a more restrictive law in April that would stop teachers from talking about LGBTQIA+ people and history in public schools. About 20 states introduced related laws in 2022.

    In addition, hundreds of bills were introduced throughout the country this year that would criminalize transgender youth and their families. Many of these bills would not allow the provision of gender-affirming health care.

    Barbara Althen, president of the southeastern Connecticut chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said she was angered by the legislation being passed in other states.

    A former Ledyard High School teacher and advisor to the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, Althen said she’s frightened for the LGBTQIA+ kids, their parents and for the doctors who take care of them.

    “It’s evil, all the way around, in my book,” Althen said.

    Althen said Connecticut residents and legislators should not become complacent because of the state’s progressive reputation on LGBTQIA+ rights.

    “I’ve been working with the LGBTQ community for a long time, and believe that people in the community and allies need to speak up,” she said, noting that her PFLAG chapter has been struggling in recent years to retain members.

    Tracy Aramos of Ledyard is a presenter and organizer at LGBTQIA+ health conferences locally and nationwide.

    “As an ally and an advocate, it is heartbreaking and devastating to see this travesty of justice … This is children being deprived of health care,” Aramos said of the restrictive bills.

    “I have met many families this bill affects," Aramos said. "Children transition at different ages. I know many who have transitioned as young as 3-6 years old. Some kids transition later or around puberty (and) into adulthood. Some of them are grown up today, but you would never know what gender they were assigned at birth. This bill hurts countless young children that have to live in shame and fear. Medical experts have shown the importance of supporting these children. The risks to their health and well-being depend on it.”

    Aramos said suicide risks are higher in LGBTQIA+ people.

    “These bills deny children of their very existence. All children should be treated with love, respect, dignity and tolerance,” Aramos added.

    Aramos said, "Children should be allowed to have discussions at home and at school about who they are without having to suffer in silence, fear and shame."

    Connecticut lawmakers passed a law providing healthcare protections for transgender people during the 2022 session.

    According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, the law “includes a provision that protects people seeking and providing gender-affirming healthcare in Connecticut from the legal harms of bans on transgender healthcare in other states. As trans youth and adults face attacks across the country – including in Connecticut – this was a welcome piece of good news.”

    Two bills meant to strengthen LGBTQIA+ protections did not pass during this year’s short legislative session.

    House Bill 5343, An Act Concerning the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Health, Human Services and Opportunity Network, was passed out of the House but didn’t get a vote in the Senate. State Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, was one of four “no” votes on the bill.

    The bill aimed to “update the membership and change the title of a network serving health and human service needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals,” according to the joint favorable report. It also expands the network's charge.

    "Specifically, it requires the network to make recommendations about promoting equitable access to opportunities for, and educational awareness about, LGBTQ people in the state," the bill analysis reads. "Under existing law, the network must already make recommendations on the delivery of health and human services to these people."

    Senate Bill 189, An Act Prohibiting Sex or Gender-Based Differential Pricing for Substantially Similar Goods or Services, was meant to make it a discriminatory practice “for a business to charge different prices for substantially similar goods or services if the difference is due to sex or gender identity or expression,” according to the bill summary.

    The bill did not make it out of committee. The Connecticut Business and Industry Association testified against the bill, saying it was vague. The CBIA testimony said, “The bulk of our concerns for the bill center on the requirement for any business that provides qualified services to provide a written price list for those services. This requirement is unworkable for some industries (i.e. healthcare) and cost-prohibitive for others.”

    The ACLU supported the bill, writing in its testimony, “Women also encounter gender-based discrimination when it comes to their experience as consumers. This nefarious form of discrimination, also called the ‘pink tax,’ results in women being charged more for both consumer goods and services.”

    Connecticut Parentage Act

    In 2021, legislators passed a law meant to ensure equal treatment for same-sex parents. The Connecticut Parentage Act took effect Jan. 1 of this year.

    According to GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and Yale Law School, the act “ensures greater protections and equal treatment for children of LGBTQ parents. The law allows many LGBTQ parents to establish parentage through a simple form, an Acknowledgment of Parentage."

    The process ensures adoptive or same-sex parents can establish parental rights, such as inheritance rights, or make medical decisions immediately after a child is born.

    "The CPA also extends an accessible path to parentage for children born through assisted reproduction and strengthens protections for children born through surrogacy,” according to GLAD.

    During Althen’s time as the Gay-Straight Alliance advisor, she said students were attuned to the legislation being considered elsewhere in the country.

    “They don’t miss a trick. If people say, ‘Oh, you’re in Connecticut, so you don’t have anything to worry about it,’ well, that’s a crock. Because they see what’s going on,” she said. “The other thing is, it’s pretty scary because when you think about those rules … You could be talking to a friend of yours and having a private conversation, someone could overhear it, all of a sudden you find yourself in serious trouble. It is absolutely crazy. It’s ridiculous. I am just so angry that this is even happening. We fought this fight already, and we shouldn’t be back here all over again.”


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