Massachusetts Legislature Passes Transgender Equal Rights Bill
November 16, 2011 by Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director
Today, the Massachusetts Legislature voted to pass 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. The bill will go into effect 90 days after it is signed by Governor Patrick.
Massachusetts will become the 16th state along with the District of Columbia in covering discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. This legislative session alone, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Nevada also added gender identity to existing state non-discrimination law. Massachusetts was among the first states to add sexual orientation to the state’s civil rights laws, doing so in 1989. For maps of nondiscrimination laws in the states, please visit: http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/maps-of-state-laws-policies.
HRC President Joe Solmonese explained the importance of adopting the Transgender Equal Rights Bill his testimony to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary:
“In addition to guaranteeing a level playing field in employment, House Bill 502 would ensure that housing opportunities are made available to all, students are free from discrimination in schools, and no one has to forego entering a public establishment based solely on who they are. It is well-documented that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are shown less desirable properties for purchase or rent, are excluded from schools activities, receive less favorable customer service, or encounter outright refusal of service. This bill does not prevent employers from firing incompetent employees and does not prevent landlords from turning down unqualified renters. Instead, this bill simply makes sure that all employees get a fair chance at working hard to get ahead without discrimination or bias and that no one is singled out for arbitrary discrimination when it comes to areas like housing, education, public accommodations, and access to credit.” Read the full testimony here.
After years of fighting, this law will both codify and expand protections for Massachusetts’ transgender population. Unfortunately, however, during last minute political wrangling, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary decided to strip public accommodations protections from the bill. As advocates, we will continue to work to pass a public accommodations bill.
Special congratulations to MassEquality and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, leaders in this effort for more than a decade.
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