Massachusetts AG presses for transgender rights bill

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey Steven Senne, AP

BOSTON (AP) — For Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, few Beacon Hill fights feel quite as personal as the stalled effort to toughen civil rights protections for the state’s transgender population.

Healey gathered with parents and their transgender children this week to talk about what she called “a really asinine situation” — that fact that while businesses can’t legally discriminate against transgender people in hiring, they can refuse to serve them.

Toward the end of the meeting, Healey choked up briefly.

“I am bothered,” Healey said, her voice quavering. “I am frustrated personally by some of the stonewalling, some of the efforts to stymie (by creating) confusion about what this is about.”

At issue is legislation to expand a 2011 Massachusetts law banning discrimination against transgender people in the workplace and in housing by also banning discrimination in restaurants, malls and other public accommodations, including restrooms.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg, both Democrats, support the change.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker isn’t so sure.

Baker said he supports nondiscrimination in Massachusetts but stopped short of endorsing the legislation.

“The details on this one are important,” Baker told reporters Monday. “I know the Legislature’s been working on it, and we look forward to seeing what they produce.”

Baker wouldn’t say if he’d veto the bill. DeLeo said he’s not sure he has the votes to override a veto.

Some of those attending Healey’s meeting urged lawmakers to force Baker’s hand.

“Let’s call it what it is. There’s this one reason why we’re all here and not celebrating that this law has passed, and his name is Charlie Baker,” said Joe Lemay, who attended the meeting with his wife, Mimi, daughter, Ella, and 6-year-old transgender son, Jacob.

“(Baker) wants to cater to the people who want to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt that letting a transgender woman use the bathroom is a dangerous thing. We all know that that’s not true,” Lemay said. “A transgender woman is a woman, should be treated as such, and given that dignity.”

“He gets to walk around with 100 percent of his dignity,” Lemay added.

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