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Governor signs gender identity bill into law

BURLINGTON, Vt. --There was no high-profile ceremony, but Gov. Jim Douglas has signed into law a measure protecting transgendered people in Vermont from discrimination.

Douglas signed the bill Tuesday.

On Thursday, a crowd gathered outside the R.U.1.2? Queer Community Center in Burlington to celebrate.

"This is going to make such a big difference in people's lives," said Kara DeLeonardis, executive director of the center. "It's just a great feeling to finally have these important legal protections for transgender people that everyone else takes for granted."

A year ago, the center was protesting, not celebrating.

Douglas vetoed a similar measure after it passed the House and Senate, saying there were technical problems with the language of the legislation and following the recommendation of the Human Rights Commission to reject it.

Among his concerns: whether new restroom or housing facilities would be needed in prisons, and whether employers could face liability if they didn't provide facilities or permit a worker to dress in a fashion at odds with their birth identity.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, bans discrimination based on the way a person expresses his or her gender or other gender-related characteristics and applies to banking, employment, education, health care, housing and public accommodations.

It has been criticized on talk radio shows, and the group Vermont Renewal worked against it in the Statehouse.

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Information from: The Burlington Free Press, http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com

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