Dear Massachusetts Legislature,
We are parents of LGBT children—some of us have lost our children to anti-LGBT bias—and we are calling on you to pass the Transgender Equal Rights Bill before another parent loses a child.
In doing so, you will change people’s lives for the better. People like Ty, a transgender man and parent of two who has had difficulty finding employment to support his family because of discrimination based on his gender identity. And people like Deborah, a mother of a transgender son who, like us, worries about the safety of her child.
The Transgender Equal Rights Bill would add protections for transgender people to existing Massachusetts civil rights laws. These laws currently prohibit discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, and marital status in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and credit. This bill would also add violent offenses against transgender people to the list of criminal acts that are subject to treatment as hate crimes.
Fifteen other states, including neighboring Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island already have these protections in place. This past May, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican, signed a similar bill into law in that state. Hundreds of businesses operating in the Bay State offer these protections to employees. More than 100 clergy members and rabbis support this measure.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick enacted an executive order earlier this year prohibiting discrimination against transgender state employees and within state contracts. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, State Treasurer Steve Grossman and State Auditor Suzanne Bump enacted transgender protections in their offices. Attorney General Coakley additionally testified in person in favor of this bill before your Judiciary Committee in June. And four Massachusetts cities (Boston, Cambridge, Amherst, and Northampton) already have local ordinances in place protecting transgender people, and Boston and Northampton have passed resolutions calling upon you to follow up quickly with a statewide law. Even with the breadth and depth of these protections, only 235,000 of the state’s 6 million residents are protected from blanket discrimination.
The Transgender Equal Rights Bill has 68 cosponsors, which makes it one of the most popular bills on Beacon Hill. It is backed by Gov. Patrick, Attorney General Coakley, Senator John Kerry, Congressman Barney Frank, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, child welfare professionals, advocates for women, respected faith leaders and top law enforcement officials. The bill will save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts $3 million a year in public expenditures related to health insurance coverage, unemployment benefits, housing assistance, and other public programs that are currently spent on people who are otherwise employable were it not for the discrimination they face.
You are Democrats working in the bluest of blue states, so we know you can get this done. Even more, we know you want to. The Massachusetts Legislature has a long and proud history of acting to lift up the most vulnerable among us: the Commonwealth, thanks to the leadership showed by lawmakers, was among the earliest state’s to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, one of the first to take a stand against violence and harassment of lesbian and gay people by including sexual orientation in the state’s hate crimes law, one of the first to respond aggressively to the bullying and harassment of LGBT youth and, of course, the first state to recognize marriages between same-sex couples.
The state is waiting for you to take action now.
And so are we.
Ken and Marcia Garber
Jeanne and David Hardy
Donna M. Cruz
Dianne and Leon Monnin
The writers are parents of LGBT children.