Massachusetts legislature approves transgender rights bill

FILE - This Thursday, May 12, 2016, file photo, shows signage outside a restroom at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C. North Carolina is in a legal battle over a state law that requires transgender people to use the public restroom matching the sex on their birth certificate.

FILE - This Thursday, May 12, 2016, file photo, shows signage outside a restroom at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C. North Carolina is in a legal battle over a state law that requires transgender people to use the public restroom matching the sex on their birth certificate. AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts moved closer on Thursday to becoming the first state this year to enact a law that would allow transgender people to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identities.

The Democratic-controlled House and Senate both easily approved a final version of the bill and sent it to the desk of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who in past statements has indicated that he is likely to sign it.

Lizzy Guyton, a spokeswoman for Baker, said in a statement that the governor opposes discrimination of any kind and was looking forward to “carefully reviewing” the measure.

The governor previously said he would sign the transgender bill if it included language added by the House that sought to address some concerns raised about privacy. That language, which was adopted with only minor changes in the final version of the legislation, would require the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to create guidelines for businesses to follow in complying with the law. It also instructs the state’s attorney general to advise law enforcement on how to deal with anyone who claims gender identity for an “improper purpose.”

Advocates for transgender rights nationally hailed passage of the Massachusetts bill as a milestone after a series of legislative setbacks in other states — notably North Carolina, which enacted a law earlier this year that requires people to use restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates.

Kasey Suffredini, chief program officer for the group Freedom for All Americans, said Baker’s signature would make Massachusetts the first state since 2014 to pass a public accommodations law for transgender residents.

“I think that Massachusetts offers a road map for other states that are just beginning to have a conversation about who transgender people are and why transgender people need anti-discrimination protections,” said Suffredini, who noted that several Republicans joined Democratic lawmakers in backing the bill.

Sen. Bruce Tarr, the GOP leader in the Senate, said in a statement that regardless of gender, no one “should be discriminated against and no person should be harassed or intimidated as they try to access public places.”

The Massachusetts Family Institute, a group that led opposition to the measure, urged its followers to call their state legislators to protest the final version, arguing it did little to protect personal privacy. The institute warned on its website that women could soon be sharing a bathroom or locker room with men.

The votes in the House and Senate on Thursday, coming one day after a conference committee agreed on a compromise bill, contained none of the drama or emotion of previous debates on the issue. The House voted 117-36 after brief speeches from three supporters, while the Senate approved the compromise on a voice vote with no discussion.

© 2016, Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

This Story Filed Under

Comments