BOSTON—This Saturday, July 8, marks the one-year anniversary that Governor Charlie Baker signed into law the update to Massachusetts’ nondiscrimination law to include protections for transgender people from discrimination in public places.
The bill passed in the legislature with a bipartisan supermajority in both chambers in 2016. In October, shortly after it went into effect, opponents of transgender equality confirmed that they’d collected the low threshold of signatures needed to bring it to the November 2018 ballot for repeal. This year, Freedom for All Massachusetts is working to build awareness about the ballot measure and increase familiarity with transgender people who are living, working, and raising families in the Commonwealth.
“In 2016, legislative leadership, our state attorney general, and our governor came together to affirm that our Commonwealth supports equal treatment, dignity, and respect for all people,” said Kasey Suffredini and Mason Dunn, co-chairs of Freedom for All Massachusetts. “Updating our state’s law has helped ensure that transgender people are not turned away at hotels or banks, denied lifesaving medical care, or mistreated when trying to do something as basic as use the restroom. Most importantly, this law saves lives, because it sends a message to transgender youth that they have a future in this Commonwealth. Our coalition will continue working to build greater understanding, and, in 2018, when asked whether to continue treating their neighbors with dignity and respect, Massachusetts voters will vote yes.”
Governor Baker indicated his support for the law last May after a long personal journey, having once campaigned against transgender public accommodations protections during his failed 2010 gubernatorial race where he referred to the legislation as a “bathroom bill.” For a long time, Baker avoided taking a stance on last year’s legislation but stated generally that he is opposed to discrimination. As of spring 2016, he began to speak of the compelling and moving stories he’d heard from transgender people and their loved ones. He went on to say he favors allowing people to use the restrooms that match who they are; and subsequently announced that he supported an update to the law. He has confirmed that he will vote to uphold the law in 2018.
Additionally, Republican lawmaker Sheila Harrington voted in favor of the bill after having voted against it in 2011, citing the stories she’d heard from transgender people and parents of transgender children. “When I spoke five years ago I was wrong, wrong on a number of levels,” she testified during the House vote. “People will say they can’t support this bill because of their faith. I support this bill fully because of my faith, not in spite of my faith. … We must have the courage to do what we believe is right.”
“One year ago, we celebrated a huge victory for civil rights and for our transgender friends, family and neighbors,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. “This victory was the product of nearly a decade of hard work and support from transgender residents, advocates, legislators, businesses, law enforcement and community leaders. Today, regardless of gender identity, people have a legal right to be free from discrimination no matter where they go in Massachusetts. This law is about protecting civil rights and ensuring that people are treated with fairness, dignity and respect.”
In more than six months since the law has been in effect, there has been no uptick in safety concerns regarding restroom use. In fact, more than a dozen groups across Massachusetts that work to ensure safety and privacy have explicitly stated that they support the law.
Freedom for All Massachusetts is the ballot committee working to defeat a 2018 ballot initiative that would repeal existing nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public places like restaurants, retails shops and hospitals, and ensure that Massachusetts continues to be a national leader on equality and fairness for all.
[From a News Release]