A bill that would expand existing workplace nondiscrimination rules to encompass perceived or actual gender identity was advanced by the Hawaii Senate Judiciary Committee this week in a 3-2 vote.
The bill, HB 546, was passed by the House at the beginning of March and would prohibit discrimination “on the basis of gender identity and expression as a public-policy matter and specifically with regard to employment.”
Protections in public accommodations already exist for trans Hawaiians. Workplace protections also exist, but this has been achieved through rulings made by the state Civil Rights Commission and not, as yet, state law.
In making this addition to the statutory ban on workplace discrimination, it is hoped that employers will have a clearer picture of their responsibilities where trans employees are concerned.
Former governor Linda Lingle vetoed a near identical bill six years ago, but according to Judiciary Chairman Sen. Clayton Hee, who spoke to KITV.com following the vote, advocates remain confident the provision will become law given the wide support for the bill and that Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie is thought to support the bill.
The bill must go through a process of reconciliation between the House and Senate versions, however this looks set to be procedural rather than anything relating to the substance of the bill.
The issue of recognition for same-sex partners in Hawaii was finally addressed earlier this year when, after years of struggle, the Hawaii Legislature passed a bill making civil unions legal in the state. Read more on that here.