Rice Reintroduces Legislation to Improve Airport Security Screening of Transgender Travelers
Bill also improves screening for passengers who wear religious headwear and other articles of faith
WASHINGTON – At the close of Pride Month, U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice (NY-04) today reintroduced her bill to protect the dignity and privacy of transgender travelers and passengers who wear religious headwear and other articles of faith at airport security screening checkpoints. The Screening with Dignity Act of 2021 would require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to develop new procedures and officer training protocols on how to screen these individuals appropriately and respectfully.
“There is no reason that we cannot keep the public safe while also treating air passengers with proper respect,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice. “Yet because of insufficient protocols and inadequate training at TSA, transgender individuals, religious minorities, and other marginalized groups are often subject to discrimination and harassment while passing through airport security. My bill will address this problem by requiring TSA to improve its security procedures to halt these incidents and ensure air travel is inclusive and accommodating of all passengers.”
The advanced imaging technology used by TSA at airport security checkpoints requires officers to identify each passenger as either “male” or “female” before one enters a full-body scanner. As a result, transgender travelers are often flagged as “anomalies” when they are screened. This has made transgender travelers particularly vulnerable to invasive searches at airport, during which there have been several reported incidents of public humiliation, discrimination, and harassment.
Individuals traveling with religious headwear or other articles of faith have also been subjected to discrimination at airport screening checkpoints.
The Screening with Dignity Act of 2021 has been endorsed on Long Island by the LGBT Network and Pride for Youth. It has also earned support from the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus and endorsements from the National Center for Transgender Equality and The Sikh Coalition.
“The transgender community is frequently subjected to invasive screenings, “pat-downs” of genitals, misgendering and pressure to expose private body parts by the TSA when traveling. Congresswoman Rice’s bill would not only bring a matter of personal dignity to the trans community but it can thwart verbal harassment and physical violence that can result from current TSA procedures and protocol. Making sure our TSA officers are properly trained is paramount to making sure our airports are safer and more just spaces” said Dr. David Kilmnick, President and CEO of the New York LGBT Network.
“The Screening with Dignity Act ensures that all passengers have dignity and privacy while traveling. At PFY we hear stories so often of transgender and non-binary individuals who experience public humiliation while going through airport security,” said Aiden Jay Kaplan, He/They Pronouns, LGBTQ Services Manager at PFY. “These experiences are traumatic and often lead the community to be fearful of traveling or avoid travel entirely. TSA agents need required training and procedures to ensure that these passengers can travel with respect. PFY is proud to stand with Congresswoman Kathleen Rice as the Screening with Dignity Act is reintroduced during Pride Month 2021.”
“As co-chairs of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus' Transgender Equality Task Force (TETF), we are proud to support the Screening with Dignity Act,” said U.S. Representatives Marie Newman (IL-03), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Jennifer Wexton (VA-10). “This proposal would go a long way towards ensuring that transgender travelers are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve when undergoing a TSA security screening. This is a critically important step as we continue the work necessary to guarantee that every person can live freely as themselves and free from discrimination.”
“It’s past time that the TSA improve screening procedures to ensure that transgender people, religious minorities or people with disabilities are not embarrassed or humiliated as they try to travel by air,” said Mara Keisling, the executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality. “TSA has been promising reform for years, but very little has changed. The Screening with Dignity Act will help to ensure TSA has policies in place to protect transgender travelers, ensure that agents are properly trained and require new technology to be effective and treat all people fairly.
“Security screening at our nation’s airports should never wrongfully single out travelers on the basis of their identity,” said Sim J. Singh, Senior Manager, Policy & Advocacy at The Sikh Coalition. “Today’s re-introduction of the Screening with Dignity Act will improve procedures and protections to ensure that no travelers have to abandon their civil rights, privacy, or basic human dignity in order to board a plane.”
Joining Rice on the bill as original cosponsors are U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Scott Peters (CA-52), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), and Marie Newman (IL-03).