TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher which would prohibit discrimination against transgender individuals under New Jersey’s “Law Against Discrimination,” was approved by both houses of the Legislature today, receiving final legislative approval.
The measure was approved by the Senate by a vote of 32-3, and was approved by the General Assembly by a vote of 69-5, with 6 abstentions.
“Historically, as we’ve developed a greater understanding of our shared bonds of humanity, concepts like marginalization and discrimination have been vanquished in favor of tolerance and acceptance,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “Transgender individuals deserve the same rights and privileges that we extend to all of our citizens, and this bill goes a long way to ensure that their rights will be protected from the prejudices of an ignorant few.”
The bill, S-362, would extend protection, through New Jersey’s “Law Against Discrimination” (LAD), to individuals on the basis of gender identity or expression. Under the LAD, transgender individuals would be protected from employment discrimination, as well as discriminatory practices in the areas of public accommodations, contracts, housing, lending and union membership. Violation of the civil rights protections outlined in the LAD could necessitate pre-trial investigation and settlement by the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, or a civil court hearing, with penalties ranging from a cease-and-desist order for unlawful actions to compensation for the person whose rights were violated, and fines of up to $10,000 for a first offense, $25,000 for a second offense, and $50,000 for a third and subsequent offenses.
According to the bill, transgender individuals are defined as having, or are perceived as having, a different gender-related identity or expression than the one stereotypically associated with a person’s sex at birth.
“New Jersey has been at the forefront of civil rights issues in the past, and we will continue to lead the way, to ensure that everyone has a fair chance to succeed in life,” said Senator Karcher. “We cannot stand by as a segment of the population is held back because of a narrow-world view and prejudice against those who hold a different gender identity than what some may perceive as ‘normal.’ Civil justice is a shield, and we cannot allow any cracks to jeopardize the basic rights of individuals in New Jersey.”
The bill now goes to the Governor to be signed into law.