Rep. Mark Cohen Introduces First Transgender Rights Bills in PA History

On February 2, Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia) introduced the first ever transgender specific civil rights bills in Pennsylvania history, HB303 and HB304.

HB303, aka the Transgender Pupil Educational Rights Act, is based off the Success For All Students Act in California, and allows Pa. students to dress, participate in activities, and be in spaces consistent with their gender identity, regardless of gender listed on school records:

“A school district may offer different uniforms for male and female pupils, but may not require a  pupil to wear a specific uniform based on the pupil’s sex.”

“Participation in a particular activity or sport, if required of pupils of one sex, shall be available to pupils of each sex.”

  “A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities,         including athletic teams, consistent with the pupil’s gender identity, except where participation of the pupil would ban the team from national competitions.”

Click here to see the full text of the Transgender Pupil Educational Rights Act.

HB304, aka the Transgender Health Benefits Act, is based off of a piece of Philadelphia legislation that allows for transition related healthcare for government workers, but the state bill covers public, as well as private and Medicaid plans:

 “Every health care carrier that offers a health insurance plan shall include coverage in each plan for treatment of gender dysphoria and gender identity disorder, including medically necessary office visits, laboratory tests, prescription drugs, hormone treatments, counseling and transitional surgeries necessary for the treatment of either.”

Click here to see the full text of the Transgender Health Benefits Act.

“This legislation deals with extremely tangible issues within some of the most marginalized portions of the transgender community,” says Jordan Gwendolyn Davis , a transgender rights activist who has since relocated from Pennsylvania to California because she cannot get surgery in Pa. on her Medicaid. “As of right now, many transgender people in Pennsylvania are eligible for Medicaid, and thus, they see roadblocks to care, especially in the parts of the state which are not Philadelphia. Also, transgender students need to be able to have a law they can cite when the school doesn’t recognize their gender identity. These bills would mandate compliance with federal trends.”

Passage of these bills, however, does not seem likely. “On one hand, Governor Wolf pledged at the Liberty City Democrats Candidates Night in spring 2014 that he would support allowing Medicaid recipients to access trans health, and he has supported transgender students rights,” says Davis. “On the other hand, we are dealing with a conservative legislature, and it will be an uphill battle, to say the least. But I believe that this is an all-Pennsylvania issue, there are transgender people all over the commonwealth, and many of them can’t access healthcare or are being oppressed in schools. Trans people and their allies should contact and meet with their legislators, share their narratives, and not give into fear, so that we can be closer to trans equality for this state.”

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