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Massachusetts Governor signs transgender equality rights bill

Massachusetts Governor signs transgender equality rights bill

BOSTON — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday signed an historic transgender rights bill, giving the state’s estimated 33,000 transgender citizens vital protections against discrimination in employment, housing, education, credit and hate crimes law.

Deval Patrick

The Transgender Equal Rights Bill passed in the Massachusetts House on Nov. 15 by a vote of 95-58 vote, and cleared the state’s Senate the following morning when Senators approved the measure on a voice vote and with no opposition.

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

Patrick said he signed the bill as a matter of “conscience” even though lawmakers had stripped a provision that would have required all “sex-segregated facilities” to grant admission to people based on their gender identity, rather than their biological gender.

The provision, viewed as a key component by advocates of the legislation, was removed to build consensus among lawmakers.

“It gave me pause, and it gave the advocates pause, and it gave transgender people pause,” Patrick said in an interview inside his State House office. “There’s a lot of good in this bill, and after consulting with them and my team and my own conscience, I wanted to sign this bill. And then, we’ll come back around to public accommodations.”

The Governor said he did not want to risk sending the bill back to lawmakers with an amendment, particularly as they embark on a seven-week recess.

Patrick has been a vocal proponent of transgender rights. In February, he signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in state employment, a directive which reaches 43,500 executive branch employees and 13,500 state contractors.

“Gov. Patrick was a staunch advocate of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill from the earliest days of his administration,” said Gunner Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), in a statement.

“We are so grateful for his leadership in getting this bill passed and for his unwavering commitment to ensuring that all residents of the Commonwealth, including transgender people, are treated with dignity and respect under the laws of our state,” Scott said.

When the bill takes effect on July 1, 2012, Massachusetts will become the 16th state in the nation, along with Washington, D.C., to offer vital protections against discrimination to its transgender residents.

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