Blind pigs and acorns

On Friday New Jersey's waning Gov. Chris Christie signed two bills protecting transgender residents of the Garden State.

A4652 prevents school districts from forcing transgender students to use facilities that correspond to their birth sex rather than gender identity.

The new law also requires the state education commissioner to establish guidelenes for schools to acknowledge name and gender-identity changes and pronoun use and "procedures to allow students to participate in activities that correspond to their gender identities."

Other provisions of the new law would permit the creation of LGBTQ student clubs, allow students to dress in accordance with their gender identity, issue school IDs corresponding to gender identity as opposed to birth sex, and ensure that school counselors are knowledgeable about issues relevant to the transgender community.

The Legislature passed the bill — an effort led by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) — in a 25-10 vote in the Senate and a 59-15 vote with three abstentions in the Assembly in June. In both houses, the bill had bipartisan support, but most Republicans voted no, and a few Democrats abstained or voted no.

The new law will help change cultural perceptions of trans children and hopefully influence how students treat each other in and outside of school.

Trans children are harassed and bullied for daring to be themselves. This has to stop.

--Huttle

We are ecstatic that the governor has decided to stand on the right side of history by protecting all of New Jersey’s residents. After years of him vetoing bill after bill that would protect LGBT New Jerseyans, we are pleasantly surprised.

--Christian Fuscarino, Garden State Equality

Christie signed a separate bill (A4568), also sponsored by Huttle, prohibiting health insurers from denying coverage or services or setting higher premiums based on gender identity. The new law also bars insurers from listing gender identity as a pre-existing condition for which coverage can be denied.

Antiquated policies and attitudes towards transgender individuals have led to discrimination, violence, depression and suicide. While tremendous strides have been made in recent years to advance equality for members of the ‘LGB’ community, much more still needs to be done to help protect our brothers and sisters in the ‘T’ community.

--Huttle

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