Bill provides public accommodations protections for transgender residents in Massachusetts
BOSTON – State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) voted to pass An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination. This bill provides equal access to public places for every resident of the Commonwealth, regardless of gender identity. Public accommodations include but are not limited to restaurants, nursing homes, coffee shops, grocery stores, and sports arenas.
“I am proud that the Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation to expand civil rights protection for transgender people, improving the safety and economic security of the transgender community and the public at large,” said Senator Eldridge. “Passing this legislation builds on the Transgender Equal Rights bill that I was a strong advocate for in 2011 and sends a strong message that Massachusetts is a welcoming place for all. I want to thank State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), the sponsor of the bill, and Senator Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont), Senate chair of the Judiciary Committee, and Senate President Stan Rosenberg for their strong leadership in getting the bill through the Senate.”
According to a 2014 Fenway Health survey, 65 percent of Transgender Massachusetts residents reported experiencing discrimination in public spaces including restaurants, retail establishments, and health service centers. This legislation prevents such discrimination against transgender individuals in public accommodations by adding the phrase “gender identity” to pre-existing law.
This bill builds on the Transgender Equal Rights Bill, passed in 2011, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity in housing, education, employment, and credit. Where the final bill in 2011 did not include public accommodations protections, this legislation completes a near decade of advocacy around full inclusion of transgender residents in communities across the Commonwealth.
The bill passed in its original form with a 33-4 vote, with rejection of all but one amendment. The adopted amendment, filed by Senator Chang-Díaz, is an emergency preamble which calls for the legislation to take effect as soon as it becomes law.
More than 200 cities and towns across the country, including 14 in Massachusetts, already have these protections in place. If implemented at the state level, Massachusetts would become the 18th state in the country to offer public accommodations protections to their transgender residents.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.