The Massachusetts House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill to ban discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of gender identity, positioning the Bay State one step closer to joining 18 others in offering broad civil rights protections to the LGBT community.
Lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled state House voted 116-36 to approve the measure, which will protect transgender people from discrimination in hospitals, restaurants, malls and other areas accessible to the public. Last month, a similar version passed the Massachusetts Senate, also Democratic-controlled. On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said the bill had his support.
“No one should be discriminated against in Massachusetts because of their gender identity,” Baker said in a statement, setting himself apart from many Republican counterparts now digging in their heels to keep transgender people out of the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identities.
Wednesday’s floor debate spanned five hours as lawmakers considered 36 amendments, many of which were designed to weaken the bill. One amendment would have required government issued documentation or a corrected birth certificate in order to have nondiscrimination protections. Another would have exempted certain kinds of locker rooms from the bill’s purview. All of the amendments geared toward watering down transgender protections, however, were defeated by wide margins.
"Today, Massachusetts has bucked a national trend of legislative attacks against the transgender community and offered a simple but powerful acknowledgement to transgender young people, adults and our families: that we are human beings, worthy of respect and deserving of equal protection under law," said Kasey Suffredini, chief program officer of Freedom for All Americans and co-chair of Freedom Massachusetts, the bipartisan campaign working to pass the bill.
"Massachusetts lawmakers demonstrated today that they have been listening, and their tremendous leadership will serve as a model to other states that are only now beginning the conversation about transgender equality. We look forward to seeing this legislation arrive at the governor's desk for his signature as soon as possible."