Last night, I testified before the Portland City Council, urging councilors to approve a transgender-inclusive health care policy for city employees. I am happy to announce that the council voted unanimously to approve this important change.

In May, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in all health programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, including health insurance programs participating in Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces. The rule forbids health insurers from categorically excluding treatments related to gender transition. The Obama administration also eliminated transgender health care exclusions for federal employees in January.

However, cities like Portland that provide insurance to city employees under their own plans are not included in the rules. The resolution passed last night by the council is a proactive step that will bring the city of Portland in line with many other Maine coverage providers, and will ensure transgender city employees can get the health care they need.

More than 60 cities across the nation, including Boston, Cambridge, Worcester, Providence and Burlington, have already guaranteed equal health coverage for their transgender employees.

As we said in our testimony, "Transgender people have experienced and continue to experience multiple forms of discrimination in accessing care through health insurance, but the City of Portland has an opportunity to make a positive change in this area. Removing the City’s health plan exclusion is a vital first step to ensuring that transgender people are able to access the health coverage and care they need." You can read the full testimony here.

2016 has been a painful year for the trans community - with 14 trans people murdered (mostly women of color) and over 200 anti-LGBT bills introduced around the country, many targeting the ability of trans women to use the right bathroom. In the shadow of so much grief and hate, it's nice to have a glimmer of positive news from Portland.