House Passes Bill to Prohibit Gender-Identity Discrimination; Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature

On June 1, state Reps Liz Malia (D-Jamaica Plain) and Jeffrey Sánchez (D-Jamaica Plain) voted in favor of legislation that provides legal protections against discrimination related to gender identity or expression in public accommodations. The 2016 legislation builds off of the 2011 Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Act prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, education, credit, and hate-crimes. It includes the right to use the restrooms and locker rooms that match an individual’s gender identity.

“We advanced civil rights in the commonwealth by passing this anti-discrimination bill into law that will protect gender identity in public spaces,” said Rep. Liz Malia. “The work that was started in 2011 is complete, and now we join eighteen other states in ensuring our laws represent and protect everyone.”

“As I said on the floor of the House during debate, this was an easy vote for me. This is about extending civil rights to all residents of the Commonwealth and continues our legacy of promoting equality,” said state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez. “I look forward to joining my colleagues in getting this legislation to the Governor’s desk.”

To provide clarity to businesses and help mitigate harassment of transgender individuals, the bill directs the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) to adopt and promulgate policies to regarding the implementation of the law, including how and when gender identity may be evidenced.

This legislation also directs the Attorney General’s Office to provide guidance on which agency complaints regarding the assertion of gender identity for an improper purpose should be directed, if that circumstance arises.

Under the bill, public accommodations include places such as hotels, restaurants, retail stores, taxis and trains, bathrooms, parks and entertainment venues.

The bill’s final details will either be worked out informally or by a conference committee before going to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.

Editor’s note: Gov. Baker said on May 31st that he would sign the current House bill if passed in its current form.