Massachusetts has long been one of the greatest champions of civil rights in our nation. I have always considered myself fortunate to live in a state where tolerance is promoted and discrimination is prohibited against our residents. However, when it comes to guaranteeing equal rights for our transgender community, there is still much progress to be made in the Commonwealth.
In 2011, my colleagues and I in the Legislature took a critical step towards protecting transgender individuals from discrimination in passing the Transgender Equal Rights Act. This landmark piece of legislation prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression with regard to employment, credit, education, and housing. Despite this legislation, however, discrimination against transgender individuals has continued to persist in Massachusetts.
Although several agencies have started to address compliance with the 2011 law, implementation varies considerably between agencies. For example, a recent survey of transgender Commonwealth residents show that many respondents still face harassment or discrimination from personnel at government agencies. Furthermore, transgender people still do not have protections for public accommodations under the current law, meaning that a business owner could refuse to serve a transgender person or restrict bathroom access.
No citizen should be denied the right to live in accordance with his or her gender identity. I believe that, as a Commonwealth, we must do everything we can to ensure that every resident is protected equally under the law. This is why I am supporting and advocating for legislation aimed at strengthening protections for transgender individuals in the Massachusetts.
For starters, I am a lead sponsor of a bill that requires each executive department and agency to fully comply with the Transgender Equal Rights Act by drafting nondiscrimination statements, creating procedures for ensuring equal access to state services, training officials to prevent discrimination, and investigating reports of discrimination so that they can be dealt with promptly. In addition, I am a co-sponsor of legislation that would update the 2011 law to include the right to access to public spaces, regardless of gender identity.
These bills are not just about transgender issues, they’re about basic human rights. I believe that Massachusetts can and should continue our legacy of progress and inclusion. We can do that by passing these crucial bills to help ensure that all of our citizens are treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve.
Senator Sal DiDomenico