Massachusetts House passes transgender equality rights bill


BOSTON — In a late night session Tuesday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed the Transgender Equal Rights bill without amendment.

The approved version added “gender identity” to employment, education, housing, and credit non-discrimination law, as well as to hate crimes law. It did not address public accommodations.

Speaking in support of the bill were lead sponsors Byron Rushing (D-Boston) and Carl Sciortino (D-Somerville), as well as Judiciary Committee Chair Eugene O’Flaherty (D-Chelsea).

Debate was limited to an hour, and during that time the only amendment offered for a vote – out of a stack offered by opponents – would have struck all but the Hate Crimes provisions.

It was defeated by nearly the same margin by which the bill eventually passed.

House Republicans claimed the bill is unnecessary and anti-business, but supporters said it’s an important addition to the state’s civil rights laws.

At a news conference earlier, opponents presented various scenarios which they claimed a small business such as a day care or grocery store might suffer if an employee suddenly began identifying with the opposite sex. Supporters of the bill say no one should be fired because of gender identity or expression.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, said he would sign the bill if it reached his desk, and rejected opponents’ claims that it might hurt small businesses.

“I don’t think fairness is bad for anyone,” Patrick said.

The state’s Senate is expected to consider the bill for a vote as earlier as Wednesday.

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