[UPDATED] Gov. Baker May Be Evolving on Transgender Rights for BayStaters

Transgender RightsTransgender rights are what transgender BayStaters need the most in Massachusetts.
Graphic: Freedom Massachusetts

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Baker’s comments come as MA legislature considers action on transgender rights bill

By: Chris Gilmore/TRT Reporter—

BOSTON, Mass.—Under mounting pressure to sign the transgender rights bill, Governor Charlie Baker, according to a recent story from the Globe, seemed to signal that he “won’t veto the legislation” if it made it to his desk.

“Governor Baker believes people should use the restroom facility they feel comfortable using,” said a spokesperson to the Globe earlier today.

Later in the day, Baker spoke to WGBH-FM co-host Jim Braude. During the radio interview, Baker alluded that he was proud that on many of the issues he’s been “on what I would describe as the right side of history.”

Carly Burton, Freedom Massachusetts campaign manager, praised Governor Baker’s comments.

“We applaud Governor Baker for opposing discrimination and, as part of that, supporting the ability of transgender people to use the restrooms that match who they are,” said Burton. “He has been on the right side of history on other important LGBT issues, and we hope he’ll do the same with the transgender public accommodations bill by signing it into law. We urge the legislature to move quickly to send the bill to Governor Baker’s desk.”

The controversy over transgender rights came to the public light again just over a week ago when Baker was booed off stage at a recent Boston Spirit Magazine LGBT Networking event in which Baker was the keynote speaker. Prior to that event, the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce rescinded its invitation to the governor because of his attendance and speech at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s leadership conference in Las Vegas.

For months, the debate over transgender rights has been at an impasse. Freedom MA’s website states that #TransBillMA “has been stalled in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, while House Speaker Robert DeLeo has said he won’t call a vote unless he knows the Governor will sign it or that he has the votes to override.”

However, the time for transgender BayStaters’ rights may be closer now than ever before. The votes needed, in both the House and Senate, to pass this bill are there—and, according to Freedom Massachusetts, “Senate President Stan Rosenberg has committed to debating this legislation next month.”

“Here in Massachusetts, discrimination is unacceptable. We are morally bound to take this path,” said Senator Rosenberg to TRT in a former interview. “We have to complete what we started.”

Kasey Suffredini, chief program officer of Freedom for All Americans and co-chair of Freedom Massachusetts, agrees.

“Governor Baker has taken an important step forward today by announcing that he supports the ability of transgender people to use the restrooms that match who we are,” said Suffredini via the organization’s website. “His journey is a testament to the transformative power of meeting transgender people and their families and learning our stories.

“Governor Baker has said he opposes discrimination, and we hope he’ll make that idea a reality in the lives of his transgender constituents by signing Massachusetts’ transgender protections bill into law when it gets to his desk. We urge the legislature to act quickly to send a bill to his desk. It has been nearly 10 years since these protections were first introduced on Beacon Hill, and transgender people have waited long enough.”

Freedom for All Americans is a founding partner of Freedom Massachusetts and has dedicated Suffredini as a chair to the campaign for the past year. Under Suffredini’s strategy and leadership, Freedom Massachusetts has recruited and secured endorsements from more than 250 businesses, every major professional sports team in New England, the state’s leading law enforcement associations, 16 women’s and victim’s advocacy groups, more than 350 clergy and congregations, the entire MA congressional delegation, the state attorney general, bipartisan leadership in the House and Senate, public endorsements from both the Senate President and the House Speaker, and more have supported SB 735 and HB 1577, An Act Relative To Transgender Anti-Discrimination. Undoubtedly, Massachusetts is turning the tide and the prospect for the bill to pass into law has just become closer to it becoming a reality than ever before.

A press release from Freedom for All Americans stated that “Senate President Stanley Rosenberg announced last week that the Massachusetts Senate will debate the legislation in May. State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz along with State Representatives Byron Rushing and Denise Provost are lead sponsors of the bill (House Bill 1577/Senate Bill 735).”

In 2011, the state passed a bill that provided legal protections to transgender people in the areas of housing, employment and public education. But, that legislation did not include protections in public accommodations, according to a TRT story. The 2011 law that Gov. Baker’s office has long supported (Transgender Equal Rights Act) has excluded the protections for transgender people in public accommodations protections, which has meant transgender people are not free from facing discrimination in public spaces such as restaurants, retail stores, government offices, malls, transportation, bathrooms and hospitals.

That 2011 law may be changing this year, as the governor’s apparent evolution takes place right before his constituents eyes. If the bill is passed in Massachusetts before the end of the legislative session, Massachusetts would become the 18th state to have an explicit law protecting gender identity in public spaces.

This story will be updated throughout the day. For more information about Freedom Massachusetts, visit its website here; to know more about Freedom for All Americans, visit its website: www.freedomforallamericans.org/