Massachusetts Becomes 18th State to Secure Full Transgender Protections

By Cameron Tolle • July 8, 2016 • 3:10 pm

On Friday afternoon, Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation into law extending full protections to transgender Bay Staters by updating the state’s public accommodation law to prohibit gender identity discrimination. With his signature, Massachusetts officially becomes the 18th state in the nation to secure full, comprehensive protections for transgender Bay Staters.

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Today’s monumental victory for transgender rights in Massachusetts comes after local advocates have pushed for this legislation – and told the stories of transgender people – for more than a decade. In 2011, state lawmakers passed legislation protecting transgender people in employment, housing and credit – but not public accommodations. Passage of this bill, with bipartisan support, is a clear sign that momentum for transgender rights is growing across the country – and clear proof that when lawmakers hear the stories of transgender people, they know there is simply no good reason to deny them protections from discrimination.

For the last year, our chief program officer Kasey Suffredini has served as co-chair of Freedom Massachusetts, the local statewide coalition committed to passing this legislation known as #TransBillMA:

“Massachusetts by all counts has bucked a national trend of political attacks against the transgender community and offered a simple but powerful acknowledgement to us today: that we are human beings, worthy of respect and deserving of equal protection under law. This tremendous victory is a testament to the transformative power of story telling. Since this bill was first introduced nine years ago, transgender people courageously have come forward to educate lawmakers about our experiences with discrimination and to dispel myths and stereotypes about who we are. The leadership of our legislature, attorney general, and governor shows that they have listened. The important public education we have done here will serve as a model to other states that are only now beginning the conversation about transgender equality.”

We join our local partners in thanking state lawmakers for their courage, tenacity and commitment to passing this legislation. While the list of legislative champions is long, today’s victory simply would not have been possible without the leadership of Senate President Stan Rosenberg, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Representative John Fernandes, Representative Byron Rushing and Representative Denise Provost.

Governor Baker, a Republican, once opposed transgender protections, campaigning against public accommodations during his failed 2010 gubernatorial race and referring to the legislation as a “bathroom bill.” As of last year, Baker did not take a position on the current bill but stated generally that he is opposed to discrimination. In recent months, he began to speak of the compelling stories of 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 at the end of May, he publicly expressed support for a version of the bill. He has ten days to sign it into law.

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 recruited and secured endorsements from more than 250 businesses, 350 clergy and congregations, 11 labor unions representing more than 750,000 families, 16 statewide women’s and victim’s advocacy groups, every major professional sports team in New England, the state’s leading law enforcement associations, 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. In addition, Freedom for All Americans contributed to the Freedom Massachusetts coalition in the form of communications outreach, digital strategy, lobbying, field support, and staffing key campaign leadership roles. The bill passed the Senate and House overwhelmingly with supermajority bipartisan support.

As Massachusetts became the first state since 2014 to pass a transgender-specific public accommodations law, it capped off a landmark week for transgender rights in states across the country. Just yesterday, opponents of transgender equality in Washington state failed to gather enough signatures to put I-1515 – a harmful ballot initiative that would’ve repealed the state’s 10-year-old transgender non-discrimination law – on the ballot this fall. Backers of this harmful initiative employed the same scare tactics and slanderous lies used by #TransBillMA opponents here in Massachusetts – and in both states, voters and lawmakers alike flat-out rejected this damaging rhetoric.

This week, our movement proved – from coast-to-coast – that when we debunk the myths of our opposition, when we stand up to tell our stories and put the lives and experiences of transgender people front and center, voters and lawmakers alike agree: Everyone – including transgender people – must be treated fairly and equally under the law.

 


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