Today, House Bill Senate 1728/Senate Bill 1687, An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes, was heard by the Judiciary Committee, in a packed hearing that is actually still going on as I write, at 6pm. Many, many people came out today to offer testimony on the need for this bill and to share stories about the discrimination they have faced — from being fired from their jobs for being transgender, to being kicked out of their apartments, assaulted on the street, or even being denied access to a homeless shelter because of their gender identity or expression.
I’m proud to be a co-sponsor of this legislation, and I joined a large group of legislators in offering testimony in support of the bill before the committee today. Below is a copy of the written testimony I submitted to the Committee, detailing the need for this bill and why I am supporting it.
The bill is ultimate about equality, and I hope Massachusetts will take the next step forward on the path towards equality for all people by passing this bill this year.
Dear Chairwoman Creem and Chairman O’Flaherty,
I am writing in strong support of House Bill 1728/Senate Bill 1687, An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes.
Massachusetts has a proud history of promoting and protecting civil rights for all, and ensuring that minorities in our state receive equal treatment in the eyes of the law. In passing this law, we would continue that history by ensuring that a minority which currently faces high rates of discrimination and violence is clearly protected in our state.
Ultimately, this legislation is about equality. No one should be fired from their job, evicted from their apartment, denied access to public facilities, or harassed on the street, simply for being who they are. As a Legislature, it’s our duty to ensure that all of our constituents – including our transgender constituents – have those basic rights.
Although this matter has only recently received legislative and media attention, it’s not a new issue for many in this state. The City of Boston passed legislation protecting transgender people from discrimination over seven years ago, with only positive results. Many businesses in our state have had policies on the books for years, prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression in hiring and promotion practices. These businesses know what many other businesses will discover if this law is passed – their ability to attract and retain talented employees increases when they don’t exclude people because of their gender identity (or, for that matter, their race, religion, gender, etc.)
If this legislation passes, Massachusetts would join 13 other states, the District of Columbia, and numerous cities and town (including Cambridge and Northampton, in addition to Boston) in extending these rights and protections to transgender people. The legislation has received strong support from the civil rights, legal, and business communities, all of whom appreciate the clarity that it would bring to a current batch of laws and judicial decisions that can be difficult to understand and enforce.
This bill has been termed a “bathroom” bill by opponents, who falsely claim that allowing transgender people access to public facilities would put women and children in danger. The fact is, in none of the cities or states where similar laws have already been enacted have there been complaints of the kind. If someone enters a public facility for the purpose of harassment, assault, or any other illegitimate reason, they may not simply hide under the umbrella of anti-discrimination laws. This point is underscored by the fact that this bill has been endorsed by numerous women’s and children’s advocacy organizations, including Massachusetts NOW, Jane Doe, Inc., the Women’s Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Society for the Protection of Children.
On behalf of my constituents who this bill would benefit, and all the other people across the Commonwealth who have been harmed by discrimination based on their gender identity, I urge the Joint Committee on the Judiciary give this bill a favorable report quickly.
Thank you for the consideration of my remarks.
Very Truly Yours,
James B. Eldridge
Middlesex and Worcester District