Connecticut lawmakers have passed a bill providing protection from gender identity discrimination.
Members of the state House of Representatives debated the measure for five hours on Thursday night before it was approved by a narrow margin around midnight.
The bill would include "gender identity or expression" as a protected characteristic along with race, national origin, sex and other attributes under current state law.
"We shouldn't discriminate against people just because Mother Nature or God made them differently," Rep. Linda Scholfield, a Simsbury Democrat, said.
Some lawmakers said they had concerns that legislation could be abused or have unintended consequences.
Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, of Norwalk, said employers might not understand what it means to be transsexual or transgendered and could unknowingly violate the law and wind up facing a fine and possible jail time.
The director of the Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition said a survey shows that half of transgender people in greater Hartford report experiencing employment discrimination.
Still some lawmakers voiced concern about how the measure could affect children.
"I have nothing against what people do in the own homes but when it impacts society, when it impacts children in particular, we must be careful that we are not turning the norms of society upside down to protect the small class of individuals' (who) desire to be different, to express themselves differently," said Democrat Steven Mikutel of Griswold.
At least 13 states have passed similar legislation.