Massachusetts set to increase protections for transgender people

The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday approved legislation to protect transgender people.

While Massachusetts currently bans discrimination against trans people in housing and employment, the new protections includes public accommodations.

The bill will now go to the Republican Governor Charlie Baker as it already passed in the House of Representatives.

The Governor has so far not said whether he plans to sign the bill into law or not.

But Baker has in recent weeks signalled support for trans rights.

The bill comes as North Carolina and Mississippi have introduced laws to limit bathroom use by transgender people, and as Kansas is attempting to change health regulations to make it impossible for trans people to legally change their gender.

The move by Massachusetts has been hailed by LGBT rights activists who said it is welcome to see states moving to protect their citizens, rather than limit their rights.

“We commend the Massachusetts Senate under the leadership of Senate President Stan Rosenberg for choosing to lead by embracing acceptance, respect and dignity for all at this pivotal moment for transgender equality in America,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs.

“While North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has legislated hate by signing the vile HB2 into law, governors from Georgia and South Dakota have joined the growing list of fair-minded Republicans standing up for fairness and equality. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans– on both sides of the aisle– know that discriminating against the LGBT community is wholly unacceptable.”

“We look forward to continued equality momentum in Massachusetts with a positive vote in the House, and we urge Governor Baker to sign this vitally important measure into law when it reaches to his desk,” Winterhof added.

Massachusetts will join 18 other states with LGBT discrimination protections specifically for public accommodations, if Baker signs the bill.

The bill found support across the state. It has been endorsed by various sports teams.

Similar to the way businesses have put pressure on North Carolina and Mississippi to repeal the newly introduced laws, some businesses in Massachusetts had urged the state to pass the new law to protect transgender people.

It expands on 2011 statewide laws which ban discrimination against people based on their gender identity in the workplace, in housing, in restaurants, and importantly, in bathrooms.

Governor Baker has responded after being heckled off stage at an LGBT event last month.

Baker was heckled as he made an 18-minute speech at the event, which was cut short. He was speaking at the Boston Spirit LGBT Executive Networking Night.

Those at the event booed him for failing to come out 100% in favour of the bill.