Governor Patrick signs transgender equal rights bill into law

Good for Governor Patrick. Greater equality produces greater prosperity. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Governor Deval Patrick signed into law today An Act Relative To Gender Identity, “historic legislation to legally protect transgender individuals from discrimination in housing, education, employment and credit. The new law, signed at the State House today, also provides additional civil rights and protections from hate crimes.”

“No individual should face discrimination because of who they are,” said Governor Patrick. “This legislation gives Massachusetts the necessary tools to stop hate crimes against transgender people and to treat others fairly. I am proud to sign it.”

There are an estimated 33,000 transgender people living in Massachusetts.

2011 was a banner year for advancing state-level anti-discrimination protections for trans people, with Massachusetts being the FOURTH state this year to pass laws protecting people from discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

Hawaii: gender identity and expression were added to the employment anti-discrimination law. Trans people were already covered in housing and public accommodations.

Connecticut: gender identity and expression were added to the employment, public accommodations, housing and credit anti-discrimination laws.

Nevada: gender identity and expression were added to the employment, public accommodations and housing anti-discrimination laws.

Massachusetts: gender identity and expression were added to the employment, housing, education and credit anti-discrimination laws and hate crimes law.

More work remains to be done in Massachusetts because the bill signed into law today by Gov. Patrick does not protect trans people from discrimination in public accommodations. Trans rights advocates plan to revisit public accommodations during the 2013 legislative session.

“This is not the end of our fight, and MTPC [Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition] is committed to getting public accommodations protections for our transgender youth, adults, and families. MTPC plans on introducing a bill for the 2013 legislative session for those public accommodations protections,” said Gunner Scott, Executive Director of MTPC. “For now, let’s be proud of the difference this bill will make in the daily lives of thousands of people across the state who need jobs, a safe place to live and access to education.”

Cross-posted at Pam’s House Blend.

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5 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. OK, stupid question time

    What is a “public accomodation”? The reason I ask is because what I think they are I have a hard time imagining being an issue. I’m thinking of things like buses and I’m imagining (or rather I’m having difficulty imagining) a Rosa Parks situation where a transgendered person is denied a seat. Or is this a euphemism for a restroom, which got the haters all in a fit, to which I always argued that transgendered people have been using public facilities all along, law or no law.

    • Public Accomodations

      It’s not a stupid question, but the whole point of the public accommodation piece is to make sure that transgendered individuals are placed on the same playing field as other discrete and insular minorities (see Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).

      In that sense, I don’t think that this is a “euphemism” for a restroom — rather, it is a much broader use of the term consistent with other civil rights statutes.

    • According to MGL

      this is a definition of public accommodation:

      A place of public accommodation, resort or amusement within the meaning hereof shall be defined as and shall be deemed to include any place, whether licensed or unlicensed, which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public and, without limiting the generality of this definition, whether or not it be (1) an inn, tavern, hotel, shelter, roadhouse, motel, trailer camp or resort for transient or permanent guests or patrons seeking housing or lodging, food, drink, entertainment, health, recreation or rest; (2) a carrier, conveyance or elevator for the transportation of persons, whether operated on land, water or in the air, and the stations, terminals and facilities appurtenant thereto; (3) a gas station, garage, retail store or establishment, including those dispensing personal services; (4) a restaurant, bar or eating place, where food, beverages, confections or their derivatives are sold for consumption on or off the premises; (5) a rest room, barber shop, beauty parlor, bathhouse, seashore facilities or swimming pool, except such rest room, bathhouse or seashore facility as may be segregated on the basis of sex; (6) a boardwalk or other public highway; (7) an auditorium, theatre, music hall, meeting place or hall, including the common halls of buildings; (8) a place of public amusement, recreation, sport, exercise or entertainment; (9) a public library, museum or planetarium; or (10) a hospital, dispensary or clinic operating for profit; provided, however, that with regard to the prohibition on sex discrimination, this section shall not apply to a place of exercise for the exclusive use of persons of the same sex which is a bona fide fitness facility established for the sole purpose of promoting and maintaining physical and mental health through physical exercise and instruction, if such facility does not receive funds from a government source, nor to any corporation or entity authorized, created or chartered by federal law for the express purpose of promoting the health, social, educational vocational, and character development of a single sex; provided, further, that with regard to the prohibition of sex discrimination, those establishments which rent rooms on a temporary or permanent basis for the exclusive use of persons of the same sex shall not be considered places of public accommodation and shall not apply to any other part of such an establishment.

      There may be other definitions in the MGL or exceptions to this definition, but you get the idea.

      As you can see, PA is a very broad category, from riding the bus to entering a restaurant. But the anti-trans bigots have reduced it to mean bathrooms because that is where they have had success in scaring the public.

      It is ludicrous to imply that there would be a spate of crimes against girls and women in public bathrooms by men dressed as women if PA were included in the law signed yesterday. First off, it’s not like trans women aren’t already using public bathrooms right now, yet none are committing crimes. Likewise, in other jurisdictions where PA are covered in anti-discrimination laws and trans people are legally protected in their access to PA, there are no crime sprees. It’s just a bogeyman fiction.

      My opinion as to why the hateful ploy works is that simply too few people have actually met a trans person, so their imaginations and fears take over and fill in the blanks. Now that there are employment and other protections in place, I hope more transgender and transsexual people will feel comfortable coming out, because in the current atmosphere of fear created by the religious bigots, the only way to dispel irrational fears is with one’s calm presence.

  2. So Laurel, it sounds to me...

    …based on the definition of PA you provided, that there are ALREADY exceptions (or at least could be interpreted as such) for things like restrooms and other bonafide single-sex facilities. Therefore, does it make any sense for me to ask what the opponents are even complaining about or does that require me to assume a certain logic that just simply does not exist among those who think this way?

    • That definition of PA above

      is only to illustrate how public accommodations are much, much more than bathrooms. What I don’t know is whether PA is defined similarly in the parts of the law that the original PA-including bill was going to amend. Here is a link to the original bill. Maybe you can decipher which parts refer to PA.

      So, I don’t know the answer to your question. But I do know that the opponents don’t make logical sense in their arguments against trans rights and more than they do in their arguments against gay rights.

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