New Jersey panel advances transgender protections

Jamie and Christopher Bruesehoff of Vernon

Jamie and Christopher Bruesehoff of Vernon

A package of bills advanced by a New Jersey Assembly committee would give transgender residents of the Garden State some protections against discrimination.

The measures include establishing a transgender equality task force; providing access to business-assistance programs; and prohibiting health insurers from denying coverage based on gender identity.

Vernon resident Jamie Bruesehoff, who has a 10-year-old transgender daughter, testified before the panel Monday.

“She went from a really depressed and struggling boy to a really happy, thriving girl. We know that in the future there will be medical care that we need,” Bruesehoff said. “So we have our eyes particularly on the health insurance coverage and non-discrimination clauses.”

The legislation will help the transgender population, said Barbra Siperstein, director of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey.

“Our enemies want to keep us in the closet. So these laws are powerful tools to empower ourselves to change society,” Siperstein said. “We have so much more to go. Not only here in New Jersey, but on a national scale.”

One bill requires collection of voluntary self-disclosed data to ensure the transgender population is not overlooked by state resources, said Aaron Potenza with Garden State Equality.

“People are concerned to find out where mistreatment and violence are happening most,” he said. “One of the things we really want to see is a focus on figuring out how we can address and epidemic of LGBT youth homelessness.”

Transgender discrimination is one of the last vestiges of bias in U.S. society, said Assemblyman Tim Eustace, D-Bergen. A firewall in the state will protect the civil rights that he said may be compromised by the Trump administration.

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