All Rights reserved
A long-awaited transgender civil rights bill passed quickly through the Massachusetts legislature today, with the state Senate voting for it overwhelmingly.
The Senate approved it on a voice vote, meaning no opposition stood to slow it down, and the House had voted 95-58 Tuesday to pass the bill.
Gov. Deval Patrick renewed his pledge to sign it, according to The Boston Globe.
"Sure," Patrick told reporters. "I think we have hate crimes on the books today. They, in the case of transgender people, don't go far enough."
Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry in 2004, but the transgender rights bill had languished in the legislature in various forms for six years. The bill approved today would "provide essential protections for the transgender community in employment, education, and in situations where people face hate-based violence," according to Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the New England LGBT advocacy organization. However, the bill would not provide protections in "public accommodations" such as public restrooms, a concession designed to bolster support among lawmakers.
According to the Transgender Equal Rights Coalition, the collection of groups working to pass the bill, the measure helps protect approximately 33,000 transgender residents in Massachusetts. The coalition reports that transgender residents of the state encounter vastly disproportionate rates of discrimination on the job, while facing the challenge of lower incomes and higher rates of homelessness compared to the general population.
Fifteen states, the District of Columbia, and more than 130 cities and towns have passed laws or ordinances to protect transgender people from discrimination.