Lately, transgender rights have been a hot topic in politics and in public discourse. Everything from President Obama’s recent directive for all public schools in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity, to the so-called “Bathroom Bill” here in Massachusetts have received heightened media attention and scrutiny.

In keeping with our mission to educate, advocate and respond, the Winchester Multicultural Network is providing up-to-date information* about two related Massachusetts Senate and House bills that have recently passed. We are pleased that Massachusetts lawmakers have taken one more step towards advocating for civil rights for everyone!

1. Senate Bill No. 735
An Act relative to transgender anti-discrimination passed on May 12, 2016, 33 to 4.

“Section 2: Any public accommodation including without limitation any entity that offers the provision of goods, services, or access to the public that lawfully segregates or separates access to such public accommodation or other entity based on a person’s sex shall grant all persons admission to and the full enjoyment of such public accommodation or other entity consistent with the person’s gender identity.”

What it means:
In other words, in public businesses and service providers in Massachusetts, it is unlawful to discriminate based on either or both sexual and gender identity.

2. House Bill H. 4253
An Act relative to gender identity and nondiscrimination passed on June 1, 2016, 116 to 36.

Status: As of June 1, will go to conference committee where it will be reconciled with the version the Senate passed in early May, and will then head to the desk of Republican Governor Charlie Baker who has stated that he will sign it.* Massachusetts will join 18 other states and more than 100 cities that have explicit non-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations, housing and employment.

What it means:
Like the Senate bill, the legislation would offer transgender people protections from discrimination at public accommodations like restaurants and malls, and will allow people to use the restroom or locker room that matches their gender identity. The House bill also includes a provision that the Attorney General’s office issue guidance for potential legal action against “any person who asserts gender identity for an improper purpose.” The language refers to fears by some critics that say the so-called “bathroom bill” could be used as cover for predatory men who want to gain access to women’s bathrooms.

Contact your state legislator to find out more on these and other important issues.

For Winchester: House Representative Michael S. Day,  Senator Jason Lewis, and Senator Pat Jehlen.

*On July 8, 2016, Massachusetts’ Republican governor, Charlie Baker, signed the transgender bathroom bill into law.

Download PDF “De-bunking the ‘Bathroom Bill’: transgender Anti-Discrimination Bills in Massachusetts.”

WMCN Letter to the Editor, Winchester Star