HOUSE VOTES ON BILL TO PROHIBIT DISCRIMINATION AGAINST TRANSGENDER PEOPLE

By Bob Katzen

 

   House 118-36, Senate 33-4, approved a new law that expands prior law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people by adding “gender identity” to existing Massachusetts civil rights laws that already prohibit discrimination in public accommodations based on age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, religion and marital status. Public accommodations are defined as “a place, whether licensed or unlicensed, which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public.” This includes hotels, restaurants, retail stores, malls, theaters, parks, medical offices, libraries and public transportation. The major controversy centered around the fact that the new law also allows access to legally gender-segregated public facilities, including restrooms and locker rooms, based on a person’s gender identity rather than on their sex.

   In 2011, the Legislature approved and former Gov. Deval Patrick signed a law that added “gender identity” to the state’s non-discrimination laws, to prohibit discrimination in employment, education, housing and credit against transgender persons. That law, however, did not prohibit discrimination in public accommodations.

   Supporters, noting 17 other states have approved similar laws protecting transgender people, said this is a new civil rights law that helps many transgender people lead safe and more productive lives. They argued that transgender individuals still face the threat of discrimination in many public accommodations. They noted that under prior Massachusetts law, there was no protection ensuring that transgender people cannot be turned away from a restroom, locker room, hotel, restaurant, retail store and many other places simply because they are transgender. 

    Opponents said the privacy rights of children matter and asked how youngsters might react to a transgender classmate using the same bathroom. They argued that bathroom and locker room use should be based on the gender on one’s birth certificate, not on an inner sense of feeling or expression. They said that male predators could use this law as cover to excuse their presence in women-only spaces.

   Opponents have gathered the necessary signatures to put the law on the 2018 ballot and let voters decide whether to repeal it or not.

   The Senate did not have a roll call on the final version of the law. The Senate roll call listed is on an earlier version.

    (A “Yes” vote is for the new law. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

 

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