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UPDATE: Federal Gender Identity bill passes second reading

NOTE: Carried as Feature Story in XTRA National, UPDATE: Federal gender identity bill passes second reading.

In a late vote last night, Randall Garrison’s C-279 has passed second reading by a vote of 150 to 132. Several Conservative MPs were among those who rose in support for trans and gender variant Canadians.

“I’m excited, but it’s only a first step,” Said Garrison. Next comes the committee stage, then a return to the House for third reading, and ultimately, the Senate.

Many trans activists reacted skeptically Friday, when Garrison announced his intention to support amendments removing “Gender Expression” from the bill, and adding a definition for “Gender Identity.”

“If Randall Garrison [makes these amendments], then I probably would no longer support this bill,” wrote Alberta blogger Mercedes Allen. “The moment we start establishing definitions, we are placing limits and defining who can be excluded from those protections.”

Randall Garrison maintains he’s sensitive to these concerns. “We are going to write a definition for Gender Identity that I hope will include the ‘Expression’ phrase,” he assures. “Once Gender Identity is in the Human Rights Code, the courts and Human Rights Commissions will interpret what that means. […] They have [interpreted it broadly] in the past, […] and I believe they will do it in the future.”

Garrison believes the amendments are necessary to passing the bill. “As I’ve said all along, this is a compromise to get it there. We need to work [in committee] on a definition that will include as many people as possible,” he says.

Support from select Tories in the House was key to last night’s vote.

“We worked hard to win support on the other side, I had very good cooperation from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, Kerry-Lynne Findlay. She is [the Tories’] main representative on the Justice Committee, and I look forward to working with her on getting the bill the rest of the way through,” explains Garrison.

Although a tight vote was expected, in the end ‘Yeas’ outweighted ‘Nays’ by 150 to 132. “Mr. [Bruce] Stanton, and Mr. [David] Wilks, the first two Conservatives that rose to vote, both voted in favour. Then, I think there were a lot more abstentions than we had expected, because [unsupportive Tories] saw that the bill was going to pass.”

It was a night of celebration for trans activists who made the trip to Ottawa to observe the vote. “I’m elated,” said Susan Gapka. “I’m really feeling the energy tonight. It was very empowering.”

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Christin Milloy