Massachusetts Republican Governor Baker Supports Transgender Access to Public Restrooms

By Cameron Tolle • April 21, 2016 • 10:32 pm

In a Boston Globe piece posted tonight, a spokesperson for Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker reiterated his opposition to discrimination and—for the first time ever—affirmed that the Republican Governor believes transgender people should be able to use the restroom consistent with who they are.

Earlier in the day while responding in a radio interview, the Governor acknowledged the progress that continues to be made on LGBT equality, saying “I take tremendous pride in the fact that on many of these issues I’ve been on what I would describe as the right side of history.” He then went on to explain how the stories of transgender people in Massachusetts have had an undeniable impact in his views on legislation prohibiting gender identity discrimination:

“I mean the folks that I’ve met with and the folks that the people on my team have met with are really compelling. And I said that. They’re compelling, they’re affecting, and their stories are moving. And I said they should continue to make their case, because,” he said, “I believe it’s a strong one.”

The Governor’s comments come as the debate on legislation updating the state’s public accommodation law to protect transgender Bay Staters—which has been stalled in committee for months—has reached a tipping point. Transgender people are currently protected from discrimination in employment, housing and credit but lack any protections in public spaces like hotels, restaurants and parks.

And while Governor Baker has previously refused to take a firm position on the legislation (SB 735/HB 1577), the Globe characterizes his remarks on Thursday as the “strongest signals yet” that he would not veto the bill should it reach his desk. The bill is currently stalled in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, where it was considered during a public hearing in October.

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Kasey Suffredini, our chief programs officer and co-chair of Freedom Massachusetts—the bipartisan campaign founded by Freedom for All Americans and our local coalition partners—says now the time has come for the Governor and lawmakers to put action to words by advancing SB 735/HB 1577 without delay:

“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. 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 proud to be 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.

Governor Baker’s comments reflect the growing bipartisan momentum for transgender equality across the country. Earlier this year, South Dakota’s Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed legislation targeting transgender students, while other Republican Governors in Tennessee and South Dakota have decried similar initiatives.

With unprecedented momentum in both Massachusetts and nationwide—and with a strong majority support across the state—Massachusetts lawmakers should act quickly to move this legislation forward to ensure transgender people are at long last fully protected under state law.


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