Rep. Mark Cohen Introduces Two Transgender Rights Bills

Philadelphia State Representative Mark Cohen has made good on his intention to introduce two transgender-specific bills in the current session of the House.

The first, House Bill 304 (HB 304) would, as Cohen explained in a press release, “require coverage of transition-related care, including hormone therapy, mental health, and surgery in all private, public, and Medicaid plans.” The bill currently has 9 sponsors including Cohen, including Dan Frankel, Stephen McCarter and Michelle F. Brownlee. If passed, it would make Pennsylvania one of four states that have transgender healthcare coverage.

HB 303, aka the Transgender Student Rights Bill, is inspired by California’s “Success For All Students Act. It seeks to eliminate gender-based bias on campuses across the state by clarifying “that students may live as their true gender identity, regardless of the sex listed on student records. Under this legislation, students would be able to follow the dress code, use facilities such as locker rooms and restrooms, and participate in athletic programs based on a students’ self-attested gender.”

This bill also has nine sponsors, including all the folks I mentioned above as well as Michael H. O’Brien, James R, Roebuck Jr. and Michael H. Schlossberg.

The bills were pieced together with the help of Philly transgender activist Jordan Gwendolyn Davis, who told me in January that the bills are “extremely real for the transgender community. … They confront many specific issues in a head-on manner, in a way that is meaningful for our community.”

Unfortunately, she tells me that the passage of the bills is unlikely, but the more legislation like this is placed in front of lawmakers, the more likely we’ll see change going forward. “As difficult and recalcitrant as our legislature can be, I believe the only thing that can be done is make a good effort. We are at the beginning of the long arc, but it will bend toward justice. And who knows, maybe there is a Republican legislator who has a transgender relative or is struggling with their gender identity, and these issues could be real to them. And if issues become real to certain people, it sets it on the road to passage.”

Stay tuned for any updates.