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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 3, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 23
Massachusetts passes Trans rights bill
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Massachusetts passes Trans rights bill

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill protecting the state's Transgender residents from discrimination in public accommodations.

The vote was 116 in favor to only 36 opposed. The measure was also passed by the Massachusetts Senate on May 11, 33 to 4.

The Senate version is somewhat different from the House bill, so the two will have to be reconciled in a future vote. The House measure, for example, includes penalties for people claiming a false gender identity, which the Senate version does not.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker promised to sign the bill.

'No one should be discriminated against in Massachusetts because of their gender identity,' Baker said in a statement. 'I would sign the House version in its current form should it reach my desk.'

A 2011 Massachusetts law prohibits discrimination against Trans people in employment and housing but does not cover public accommodations like restrooms in restaurants or shopping malls.

'Our state is one step closer to allowing me, a 14-year-old transgender girl, to be able to live my life the way I want to live my life and be free and not have to worry about being discriminated (against) in public,' said Nicole Talbot, an eighth-grader from Grafton, after watching the debate with her mother.

Democratic Rep. John Fernandes, who presided over hearings on the bill, urged colleagues to put aside fear and emotion and focus on the facts. He said discrimination should not be allowed anywhere.

'It's wrong in bathrooms and it's wrong in locker rooms and it's wrong in business settings,' Fernandes said.

Opposition to the measure came from Republicans, who are heavily outnumbered in the Massachusetts legislature, but even some Republicans crossed the aisle to vote yes on the bill.

One Republican, Rep. Sheila Harrington of Groton, said she had long opposed the bill but changed her mind after hearing tearful stories from Transgender people and parents who told of how their children had been tormented and ridiculed.

Harrington, a Roman Catholic, also dismissed objections to the bill on religious grounds.

'People will say they can't support this because of their faith,' she said. 'I support this bill fully because of my faith.'

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