Updated: Massachusetts Senate Passes Historic Transgender Protections Bill

Transgender Protections Bill
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Bill now heads to a full vote in the House … Please check for Twitter reactions at the bottom of this story

BOSTON—Today the Massachusetts Senate overwhelmingly passed SB 735, the bill that would ensure explicit protections for transgender people in public places in Massachusetts, including parks, restaurants, hospitals, and public restrooms. Today’s victory marks the most significant movement on these protections since they were first introduced in the legislature nearly a decade ago.

The bill now heads to a full vote in the House.

“Today’s historic passage of the transgender protections bill in the Massachusetts Senate sends a message the transgender community has longed for decades to hear – that we are truly welcome and valued in our Commonwealth, and that our contributions are a part of the fabric that allows Massachusetts to thrive and prosper,” said Kasey Suffredini, co-chair of Freedom Massachusetts, the bipartisan campaign working to pass the bill. “We are grateful to Senate President Rosenberg and the bill’s lead sponsor since 2010, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, for their determined leadership in bringing us to this victory. They have raised the bar on what being a champion for LGBT equality looks like, and in the process, they have saved lives. We urge the House to swiftly bring this bill to a vote and bring it one step closer to the governor’s desk and becoming law. Massachusetts is ready.”

Massachusetts is the only state in the country where lawmakers have considered a proactive, transgender-specific bill this session. Earlier this week, the federal Department of Justice filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina for its new law requiring discrimination against transgender people. The state has lost millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs since passing the law, and billions more in federal funding are at stake.

In total, over the past year, the transgender protections bill has gained support from more than 250 businesses, 350 clergy and congregations, 11 labor unions representing more than 750,000 families, leading law enforcement organizations, 16 Massachusetts-based women’s groups and advocates against violence and sexual assault, the entire MA congressional delegation, all of New England’s champion sports teams, bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate, and more.

Republican Governor Charlie Baker has moved from campaigning against transgender protections in 2010 to favoring allowing people to use the restrooms that match the gender they live as everyday, and sending what the Boston Globe labeled his “strongest signals yet” that he will not veto the bill when it comes to his desk.

A Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll released this past weekend found that Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly support statewide protections for transgender people in public places, by a 23-point margin.

In Massachusetts, all four professional sports teams, the Boston Chamber of Commerce and dozens of other businesses including MassMutual support transgender anti-discrimination laws and policies. Nationally, nearly 70 percent of the nation’s leading Fortune 500 companies have nondiscrimination policies in place that explicitly cover gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

If signed into law, the bill would make Massachusetts the 18th state in the nation to ban gender identity-based discrimination in public accommodations, including the New England states of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The House is considering its own version of a similar bill, which if passed would need to be reconciled with the Senate version before heading to Gov. Baker for signature into law.

The Senate also passed a bill Thursday mandating the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or transgender individuals as members of the state’s nondiscrimination regional advisory boards.

Freedom Massachusetts is the bipartisan campaign working to ensure all people are treated fairly and equally under the law.


GLAD issued the following statement by Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi after the Massachusetts State Senate passed the transgender accommodations bill (SB 735) by a vote of 33-4:

“Today we moved one giant step closer to securing full non-discrimination protections for transgender people in Massachusetts.

Our sincere thanks go out to Senate President Stan Rosenberg for his leadership, and to every senator who chose to stand for equality today. Many thanks as well to Senator Chang-Diaz for her leadership and support.

This is an incredible moment. And we got here through years of steadfast work by transgender people, family members, allies, businesses, faith leaders, and community organizations.

We have every chance to pass this bill this year, to ensure fair and long-overdue protections for transgender people, and to make Massachusetts a leader once again in achieving equality for all.

Together we have built up tremendous momentum, but we can’t stop now. The bill must next be taken up by the House, and I encourage supporters to contact their representatives and urge them to take a stand for equality.”

Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status and sexual orientation.


Julian Cyr, a Democratic candidate for the State Senate seat representing Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, praised the Massachusetts Senate on the passage of the bill.

“I’m pleased to see the Senate take action to affirm that transgender people in Massachusetts should have equal rights and privileges in the public domain. It’s been a long time coming. That we’ve had to fight so hard to pass a simple law reiterates why we need more LGBTQ champions on Beacon Hill.”

Cyr continued, “I want Massachusetts to live up to its promise as a Commonwealth that affirms and protects the identity and expression of all people. At a point in our nation when some states have regressed into bigotry and fear, Massachusetts needs to lead. Passing this bill is a start, but we can do better.”

During Cyr’s tenure on the LGBTQ Youth Commission, he reimagined the Commission’s structure and strategy, resulting in increased funding for bullying prevention and new policies for transgender students in public schools and for LGBTQ youth in the juvenile justice system, both of which are now national models.

In November 2015, Cyr announced his candidacy pledging to put Cape & Islands communities first. Cyr believes in the resiliency of the region’s communities and that solutions to affordability, economic opportunity, and environmental stewardship are within reach. With the right leadership, he is confident the Cape and Islands can chart a sustainable, prosperous future.

For more information on Julian please visit www.juliancyr.com.


The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed the passage of Senate Bill 735, An Act relative to transgender anti-discrimination, by the Massachusetts Senate today.  The bill protects transgender people in Massachusetts from discrimination in public places like parks, hotels, and restaurants.

Robert O. Trestan, New England Regional Director, issued the following statement:

“We applaud the Massachusetts Senate for taking this critical step in ensuring that everyone in Massachusetts is treated fairly and equally under the law.  Transgender people in Massachusetts should not have to live in fear of discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment.

“The Senate’s long awaited passage of inclusive anti-discrimination protections in places of public accommodations sends a powerful message that discrimination against transgender people is both unlawful and unacceptable.  We now urge the House to join the Senate in passing this important measure and hope that Governor Baker quickly signs it into law.”

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.


BOSTON – Sen. Eric P. Lesser voted with the Senate Thursday to pass legislation he co-sponsored that prohibits discrimination against transgender individuals in public accommodations such as sports arenas, gas stations, movie theaters, bars, public restrooms and shopping malls.

“I’d like to ask each and every person here: Where do you want your vote recorded in the story of our nation’s founding ideals, that all men and women are created equal?” Sen. Lesser said in his speech on the Senate floor.

“Do we really want to be on the side of saying we don’t care, that we turn a blind eye to that expanding story of rights in our state? I would encourage everyone to look inside themselves and ask why we’re here, why we ran for office, why we took that oath. We did that to do something, to help people, to expand that story.”

To contact Senator Eric P. Lesser, click here.

[From a compilation of News Releases]


MassEquality‘s Executive Director Deborah Shields, JD, MPH released the following statement:

“MassEquality joins the Massachusetts transgender community in celebrating yesterday’s historic Senate vote to pass the transgender anti-discrimination bill by an overwhelming majority. This vote is a huge step forward in extending full legal protection to transgender people throughout the Commonwealth.

“We extend our sincere thanks to Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz for their leadership on this issue. We also thank the Senators who, in voting for this bill, have sent the strong message that Massachusetts is a state that does not tolerate discrimination, and we applaud the compassion and courage of the thirteen Senators who spoke so eloquently and poignantly in support of the bill. They are true champions of social justice. We urge the House to act quickly to bring this bill to a vote, and we look forward to the day when everyone in Massachusetts is treated equally under the law.”

 

MassEquality is the leading statewide grassroots advocacy organization working to ensure that everyone across Massachusetts can thrive from cradle to grave without discrimination and oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.


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