Members of Congress urge passage of transgender rights bill

House Speaker Robert DeLeo STEVE LeBLANC [ap]

BOSTON — U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy and six other members of the state’s congressional delegation have sent letters to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg urging them to pass legislation extending non-discrimination protections to transgender people in public spaces in Massachusetts.

In the letter sent Monday evening, the Democratic members of Congress urged the state Legislature to pass the bills before going on holiday break next week.

DeLeo on Monday didn’t list the bills among the major pieces of legislation he hoped to take up before the break. Rosenberg favors the proposed changes.

In the letter, Kennedy and the other lawmakers said Massachusetts needs to be more welcoming to its transgender citizens.

“None of our transgender neighbors should be denied service at a coffee shop or be harassed in public restrooms because of who they are,” the letter said. “None of our transgender children should encounter exclusion or intimidation that makes them shy away from participating in the life of their communities.”

The letter noted that 17 other states and Washington, D.C., already have updated public accommodations laws to include transgender people and adopting the change would help Massachusetts in the vanguard of civil rights.

The letter also was signed by U.S. Reps. Niki Tsongas, Katherine Clark, William Keating, Seth Moulton, Jim McGovern and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey.

The bills would expand a 2011 Massachusetts law that already bans discrimination against transgender people in the workplace and in housing by also banning discrimination in other public accommodations.

Kennedy said the state’s congressional delegation is fighting for similar transgender protections in Congress and not having the protections in place in Massachusetts makes that job tougher.

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