Gov. Christie protects transgender people as Trump bans them

A new bill outlining protections for transgender students became even more meaningful when President Donald Trump

It's not an exaggeration to say that a bill Gov. Chris Christie signed last week outlining protections for transgender students is a huge victory for equal rights - and compassion.

Garden State Equality, one of the state's premiere human-rights advocacy groups, was right to thank the governor for standing "on the right side of history" in approving the measure.

The move became even more meaningful when President Donald Trump, in a classic example of being on the wrong side of history, abruptly threw transgender members of the military under the bus by banning them from serving their country.

It was a stunningly cruel announcement, which flew in the face of Candidate Trump's promise to support the LGBT community.

In stark contrast, Gov. Christie also signed additional legislation last week prohibiting health insurers from denying transgender individuals health-care coverage based on gender.

The dual measures give the state tools it needs to fight discrimination and violence against a population that too often faces both.

Who is unworthy to serve? Not transgender people | Editorial

The education bill, which takes effect immediately, requires the state education commission to draft guidelines to help schools address the needs of transgender students.

Specifically, administrators will be instructed that they cannot force transgender students to use bathrooms or locker rooms that conflict with their gender identity, and that students should be addressed by the name or pronoun they prefer, whether or not a legal name change has taken place.

Under the new law, schools also must allow students to dress according to their gender identity, and must create plans to assure the confidentiality of a student's transgender or transition status.

The goal is to make schools a safer place for transgender youths, frequently the subject of cruel, unrelenting bullying.

Democratic legislators introduced the bill after the White House reversed federal guidelines President Obama had put in place ordering public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with their gender identity.

Meanwhile, the other legislation Christie signed July 21 bans insurers from denying, cancelling, limiting or refusing to issue a new contract or policy based on an applicant's gender identity or expression, or to demand a payment based on a covered person's gender identity.

"This is not just a matter of right and wrong; it's a matter of life and death," said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), one of the bill's sponsors.

Despite these victories, the LGBT world can't become complacent, and neither can its advocates. When hard-won progress is endangered, complacency isn't an option.

That's the message we drew from Trump's ugly and heavy-handed action this week.

There are always haters out there, and too many transgender young people are driven to depression, isolation and suicide by their vicious actions.

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