Mass. Conservatives Say Governor's Executive Orders Cater to Trangender Activists

February 24, 2011 - 2:57 AM

Transgender Activists at Massachusetts Capitol

Transgender lobbyists at Massachusetts State House. (Photo courtesy MassResistance).

(CNSNews.com) – Conservatives in Massachusetts say last week's move by the state’s governor to give protected status to transgendered state employees was designed to cater to transgender activists and aid them in pushing for statewide legislation, which, if adopted,  would make it a hate crime to discriminate in any way against transsexuals and transvestites.

Last Thursday, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick quietly signed two executive orders -- Executive Order No. 526 and No. 527 -- giving transgendered state employees protected status under the state’s anti-discrimination policy and establishing a state Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity to oversee enforcement.

“What he has done is he has added ‘gender identity and expression’ to this list of protected classes in state government, which not only affects all of the state employees in the state agencies under the governor, but also any government contracts – contractors and subcontractors -- involved with the state,” Brian Camenker, executive director of the group MassResistance, told CNSNews.com.

The executive orders do not define “gender identity and expression,” but would prohibit state agencies from making employment decisions based on gender identity and call for state officials to take immediate steps to “protect” employees on the basis of it.

“(A)ll agency heads, managers, supervisors, and employees shall attend mandatory diversity training within one year of the effective date of this Order,” according to the text of the order.

The orders also provide that “all Executive Branch contracts entered into after the effective date of this Order shall contain provisions prohibiting contractors and subcontractors from engaging in discriminatory employment practices.”

Enforcement is to be a top priority of state government.

“They have this interesting Orwellian list of tribunals that will police this and punish state government agencies or workers that don’t sufficiently follow this,” Camenker said. “It’s a horrow show.”

The Transgender Equal Rights Coalition, an umbrella organization of transgender lobbying groups in Massachusetts, praised Patrick in a statement.

“Governor Patrick is a true champion for the LGBT community, and we applaud the critical first step he has taken with this order toward creating a Commonwealth where all hardworking people, including transgender people, have the opportunity to make a living and provide for themselves and their families,” said Kara Suffredini, executive director of the homosexual activist group MassEquality, a member of the coalition.

But C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, told CNSNews.com that he is concerned about the implications of the governor’s action.

 “I think the problem with this particular executive order is that it has very, very serious implications for the religious freedom rights of state employees,” Doyle told CNSNews.com.

“What will happen to a state employee – a Catholic, or another religious believer or any believer in traditional morality – who expresses moral disapproval, moral disapprobation of this sort of behavior? Will they be punished? Will they be fired? Will they be discriminated against in employment and in promotions? Will new employees coming in be questioned on this and denied state employment because they disapprove of this sort of behavior?”

Camenker, meanwhile, noted that the governor signed the order during a meeting with transgender activists and did so with no fanfare -- facts recorded by the Boston Globe and Boston Herald newspapers.

“He did it at the end of the day, it was not on his schedule, and there was no press release afterwards,” Camenker said.

“The reason that he did it was to promote this transgender rights and hate crimes bill that the homosexual lobby has concocted again this year to try to pass statewide. That is an extremely radical law which they’ve tried the last two sessions that really radicalizes the state’s public accommodations law – it has fines and jail time for people who treat transgendered people differently in any way even in public schools,” he added.

But Lee Swislow, executive director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), said in the statement last week that while the executive orders were welcome, they were not enough – the state needs a law with criminal penalties for anyone discriminating against transgendered people.

“This is a commonsense piece of legislation that will make it easier for hundreds of people to earn a living, support themselves and their families and live more safely. As a proud member of the Transgender Equal Rights Coalition, we look forward to working with the legislature and Gov. Patrick to see that the bill is swiftly made law,” Swislow said.

At present, the transgender bill only has 52 legislators as co-sponsors -- less support than for prior versions of the legislation, Camenker noted.

“Last year, when it was introduced, it had over 100 co-sponsors,” he told CNSNews.com. “Now there are only 200 people in the Legislature, so it had enough support to be passed immediately. But it never got out of committee, because once groups like ours exposed what was going to happen, and the outrage, they got really cold feet pretty quickly, and they were afraid to take a vote on it. This year, they only have half as many cosponsors, and I’m surprised they have that many.”

The proposed legislation defines gender identity and expression as “a gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.”

Doyle said the legislation would go beyond allowing men dressed as women to use the same locker rooms and bathrooms as women. 

“They would amend the existing civil rights statute, which goes back to the 1970s, which was amended back in 1989 to include sexual orientation, during the governorship of Michael Dukakis, and now it would include transgendered behavior,” Doyle said. “And this, of course would mean that there would be a nondiscrimination requirement in all employment – public and private – housing, education and credit.”

“That means, of course, that a home owner with small children who wants to rent an apartment in his home might be forced to rent to men engaging in this behavior,” Doyle said.

It could also mean that a small business owner would be forced to hire someone who was transgendered or be subject to “crippling fines and prosecution,” he added.

Camenker said the proposed law would extend hate-crimes protection to transgendered individuals.

“We’re talking gender identity disorder, we’re talking something that the mental health profession terms as a disorder, basically men who mutilate themselves and ingest hormone altering drugs and women who do similar things,” Camenker told CNSNews.com. “The whole thing is just madness; they are trying to concoct this as a civil rights movement, but it’s just absurd.”

Gov. Patrick’s office did not provide comment for this story.