Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Massachusetts Lawmakers Pass Historic Transgender Equal Rights Bill

Just a few moments ago, the Massachusetts legislature passed the Transgender Equal Rights Bill. The bill adds protections to the state’s civil rights laws against discrimination in employment, housing, education, and credit based on gender identity or expression and adds gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crimes law. Governor Patrick, a leader in the fight for transgender protections, has said he will sign the bill into law.

After six years of waiting and working, An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights (H.502/ S.764) has passed in Massachusetts! The bill adds “gender identity and expression” to Massachusetts’ existing discrimination laws regarding employment, housing, education and credit discrimination. It also adds gender identity and expression to the list of categories protected under the state’s hate crime law. Within the act, gender identity and expression is defined as “a gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of an individual regardless of the individual’s physiology or assigned sex at birth.” [Boston]
There are around 33,000 transgender people living in Massachusetts according to a study by The Williams Institute. Gunner Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, puts this large number in perspective: “That is the equivalent of Fenway Park.” A report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 76% of transgender Massachusetts residents have been harassed at work because of their identity and 20% have lost their jobs. 17% of Massachusetts transgender residents have been denied housing because of their identity, and 10% were made homeless because they couldn’t find work.

Unfortunately, critical language which protected transgender residents in public accommodations (like grocery stores, theatres, libraries, and hospitals) was taken out of the presented bill. But we must be clear-- the bill as voted on offers vitally important protections that literally will save lives and ensure the overall well-being of transgender residents throughout the Commonwealth.

Passage of this bill is truly an historic step forward!

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Some progress is better than none but taking out public accommodations is really a slap in the face.

It's still unequal.

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