Massachusetts legislators reach compromise on trans rights bill

Massachusetts

Bil Browning

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts House and Senate negotiators reached agreement Wednesday on a bill to expand anti-discrimination protections for the state’s transgender residents and allow them to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identities.

The compromise announced by a six-member conference committee could receive final votes in both chambers on Thursday and be sent to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who is expected to sign it.

The panel worked to resolve several differences between versions of the bill that passed the Senate on a 33-4 vote and later the House by a 116-36 margin after debates that were at times emotional.

The transgender rights issue has stirred controversy elsewhere, notably in North Carolina where a law passed earlier this year requires people to use restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday asked a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction against the law, citing harassment of transgender people.

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Boston Democrat who served on the conference committee, said it was important for Massachusetts to act in light of the national debate.

“I’m proud to see us standing on the right side of history,” Chang-Diaz said.

The compromise includes a provision requiring the state’s attorney general to develop guidelines for law enforcement on how to deal with people who make “improper” claims of gender identity. Such language had been included by the House, but not the Senate.

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