Congress Holds Landmark Hearing on Transgender Rights

"These are good people who can't get work and whose lives are cast to the streets in large cities and small towns," Sanchez said. "It's a disgraceful injustice."

Advocates Call for Formal Transgender Policies

Sabrina Marcus Taraboletti echoed Sanchez's testimony as she described what happened when she told her superiors in the United States Space Program that she would be changing her sex from male to female. Although Taraboletti had served as an engineer for the program for 20 years, she was fired six weeks after her announcement; just like the three individuals before her.

Taraboletti blamed their failure on the absence of formal transgender policies or procedures at the space center.

"My future, therefore, was left up to the interpretation of people who have no education in transgender issues or needs," she said.

A few members of the panel voiced concern over such legislation.

A Workplace Disruption?

JC Miller, a lawyer at Thompson Hine in Washington, D.C., said while it is critical to recognize diversity and protect employees, to do so is expensive. She said any statute imposed by Congress would overburden business owners and likely leave them vulnerable to lawsuits.

"As any legislation that mandates a change in the workplace is disruptive," Miller said, "that disruption should be kept to a minimum."

Miller urged Congress either not to interfere with employer/employee relations or to make its bill highly specific in language and definitions.

Congressman Frank directly addressed the argument that passing another law may be unnecessary or disruptive.

Offering emotional testimony laden with personal reflections, Frank urged his fellow members of Congress to cease the denial of human rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens and to work diligently to protect them.

"We are talking about responding as a compassionate society," he said. "These individuals are not now protected by the law. Can't you help them?"

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