Massachusetts Senate Votes Overwhelmingly to Protect Transgender Residents from Discrimination

By Megan Clayton • May 12, 2016 • 3:33 pm

Although anti-transgender laws from North Carolina to Mississippi are dominating the headlines, one state is actually taking steps to protect transgender residents from discrimination.

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Today the Massachusetts Senate overwhelmingly passed SB 735, a bill that would ensure explicit protections for transgender people in public places statewide, including public restrooms. Current Massachusetts law prohibits gender identity discrimination in employment, housing and credit – but not public accommodations.

Massachusetts is the only state in the country where lawmakers have considered a proactive, transgender-specific bill this session. Today’s victory marks the most significant movement on these protections since they were first introduced in the Massachusetts legislature nearly a decade ago. The bill now heads to a full vote in the House.

The current momentum is the direct result of a surge in advocacy from transgender residents of Massachusetts and allied groups. The state’s major educational associations, leading women’s organizations, sports teams, faith leaders and businesses have publicly supported transgender public accommodations protections. Legislative movement snowballed in late April after Governor Charlie Baker broke his silence to indicate that he is unlikely to veto.

Kasey Suffredini, chief program officer of Freedom for All Americans and co-chair of Freedom Massachusetts, the bipartisan campaign working to pass the bill, praised the lawmakers’ efforts as well as transgender people who have shared their stories with the public:

“Today, Massachusetts lawmakers have set a high bar for the rest of the nation on what being a champion for LGBT equality looks like. While transgender people in places like North Carolina are being singled out by their own government for who they are, Massachusetts is a case study of the support that comes with greater understanding. Transgender people have long told their stories in Massachusetts, sometimes at great personal risk; and this victory is a testament to the powerful, poignant impact of those stories. Protecting transgender people from discrimination is the right thing to do—this proposal hurts no one and literally saves lives. We hope this bill moves quickly through the House and arrives at the governor’s desk as soon as possible. Massachusetts is ready, and the nation needs this leadership.”

This victory is a momentous step forward for transgender people in the Bay State. Lawmakers in states where anti-LGBT bills are moving through the legislature or are currently on the books should look to Massachusetts as an example of the kind of prosperity that comes from ensuring all people are protected from discrimination—while North Carolina stands as a stark example of the turmoil that comes from doubling down on state-sanctioned discrimination.

Freedom for All Americans is a founding partner of Freedom Massachusetts and has dedicated Suffredini as a chair to the campaign for the past year. Under Suffredini’s strategy and leadership, Freedom Massachusetts has recruited and secured endorsements from more than 250 businesses, every major professional sports team in New England, the state’s leading law enforcement associations, 16 women’s and victim’s advocacy groups, more than 350 clergy and congregations, the entire MA congressional delegation, the state attorney general, bipartisan leadership in the House and Senate, public endorsements from both the Senate President and the House Speaker, and more.

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