Bay State Congressman Kennedy takes helm of transgender task force

U.S. Congressman Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts
U.S. Congressman Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, who took over as chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus’s bipartisan Transgender Equality Task Force in early March 2017. Photo courtesy www.kennedy.house.gov

When Gavin Grimm goes to the Supreme Court later this month to stand up for transgender rights, Congressmen Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts will be standing with him as the new chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus’s bipartisan Transgender Equality Task Force (TETF).

Kennedy announced he would take the helm of the task force in a March 3 press release.

“From education to health care to public safety: transgender Americans are told near daily that their rights count as less,”  Kennedy said. “In a country built on the promise of equal protection, this is unacceptable. Facing new threats from a new Administration and discriminatory policies rearing their heads across the country, this Task Force is united in its unwavering support for the transgender community, grateful for the partnership of our allies and friends, and energized for the fight ahead.”

According to Congressman’s press release:

In the 115th Congress, the TETF will focus on a wide range of priorities impacting the transgender community. First, fighting to restore the Obama-era guidance from the Departments of Education and Justice that instructed schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify. Specifically, the TETF will stand with Gavin Grimm in his Supreme Court case to guarantee transgender rights. Second, in light of the ongoing debate over the future of health care reform, the TETF will advocate for parity in access to essential care and treatment for all transgender Americans. Finally, the TETF will work tirelessly to respond to the surge of violence targeting the transgender community – particularly transgender women of color.  Seven lives have been lost so far this year alone.

“Although 2016 was the trans tipping point, there’s a long way to go – seven transgender women of color have already been murdered in 2017,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18). “I want to thank Rep. Kennedy for taking the wheel to ensure that we always prioritize the needs of transgender Americans and continue the fight for full equality while also protecting the achievements our movement has made.”

“Our children and our teachers understand the importance of respect and fair treatment for everyone,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02). “Unfortunately, the President and extremists’ voices on the right still don’t understand this simple idea. The Transgender Task Force will be a critical voice in standing up against discrimination and fighting for transgender and nonconforming people. I look forward to working with the new Chair of Task Force, Rep. Joe Kennedy, and together we will not allow progress to be stopped.”

Congressman Kennedy has been an outspoken advocate of transgender rights and LGBTQ equality since he was elected to office. He was a vocal supporter of Massachusetts’ transgender non-discrimination bill, appearing in-person at the State House to testify in support of its passage. Last year he introduced the Do No Harm Act, which would amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to preserve civil rights. He has been a proud co-sponsor of major equality legislation, from the Equality Act to the Global Respect Act to the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

The Transgender Equality Task Force was launched in 2015 under the House LGBT Equality Caucus. In its first term, the TETF engaged with the Departments of Education and Justice to successfully advocate for education nondiscrimination guidance.  They also worked with the Department of Housing and Urban Development on a rule requiring emergency shelters to treat transgender people according to their gender identity.