No transgender bathroom bill necessary in RI, Ajello says
Legislator decides against submitting bill, citing existing protections
STATE HOUSE – After conferring with LGBT advocates following the U.S. Department of Education’s letter to schools on allowing transgender students to use the restroom of their choice, Rep. Edith Ajello has determined legislation she had intended to introduce today regarding transgender rights isn’t necessary.
“Recent attacks on transgender people’s rights across the country have been particularly distressing to witness. I wanted to make sure that we are doing everything we can in Rhode Island to protect the transgender community, especially transgender youth,” Representative Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence) said. “Given developments in the law, including the U.S. Department of Education’s letter Friday affirming the right of transgender students to access safe and appropriate restrooms, I am now reassured that additional legislation is not needed in Rhode Island.”
Representative Ajello, who has long advocated in the General Assembly for the rights of LGBT Rhode Islanders, announced Thursday her intention to file legislation aimed at protecting the right of transgender individuals to use public restrooms corresponding to their gender identity. The following day, the Department of Education sent a letter to schools across the country instructing them to allow transgender students to use the restroom corresponding with their gender identity.
Today she said the lack of a need for such a law in Rhode Island is encouraging in terms of the progress Rhode Island has made over the years in protecting rights of LGBT people.
This month marks the 15th anniversary of Rhode Island’s own transgender anti-discrimination law — the second in the nation. It contains clear and expansive protections for transgender people in employment, housing and public spaces — including restrooms.
“Rhode Island has been a leader in protecting transgender people under the law,” said Janson Wu, Executive Director of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). “We have one of the oldest laws in the country protecting transgender people to be who they are, without fear of discrimination or violence.”
In addition to Rhode Island’s anti-discrimination law, a federal appellate court in Virginia recently ruled under federal law in favor of a transgender male student who was prohibited by his school to use the boys’ restroom. In 2014, the highest court in Maine affirmed the right of a transgender girl to use the girl’s restroom in her school, pursuant to an anti-discrimination law similar to Rhode Island’s law.
“Transgender individuals seek the same things that all people do — to work hard, give back to their community, and care for their families,” said Ethan Huckel, Board President of TGI Network of Rhode Island. “The trans community has experienced an unprecedented amount of visibility in recent months. Many trans people are feeling vulnerable, stigmatized and unsure about how they are protected. We want people to know that if someone is discriminated against in a public space or restroom because of their gender identity or expression, they can seek protection under Rhode Island law. They are not alone in this struggle — we are here to help. "
Anyone who has been discriminated for being transgender or gender-nonconforming in public spaces, including restrooms, can learn more about their legal rights at http://www.richr.state.ri.us/frames.html, www.glad.org and http://www.tginetwork.org/.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903