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Massachusetts Advances Transgender Accommodations Bill

Massachusetts State House

The Massachusetts Senate today approved a transgender-inclusive public accommodations bill, sending it the state House of Representatives, where it is likely to pass.

Massachusetts already bans discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, credit, and public education, but this legislation would extend that to public accommodations, ensuring that customers couldn’t be turned away because they’re transgender, and also assuring that trans people have access to the restrooms that match their gender identity — the latter being the most controversial provision.

The vote was 33-4 and came “after an emotional debate,” The Boston Globe reports. Opponents raised the debunked argument that the policy would give sexual predators easier access to women and children. In the more than 200 localities across the country that allow trans folks to use the bathroom that most closely corresponds with their gender identity, there’s never been a single case of a transgender person attacking someone else. There have also been no reports of a cisgender person pretending to be trans to enter the bathroom of the opposite sex for nefarious purposes.

Supporters of the bill “framed the vote as historic and one ensuring civil rights,” the Globe reports. “This about making sure that absolutely everyone in each of the 351 cities and towns that we represent — that we can look into each of their eyes and say that you will not be denied the ability to participate fully in your community because of who you are,” said Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, a Democrat, according to the Globe.

Sen. Richard J. Ross, the only Republican to vote for the measure, voiced sympathy with parents of transgender children, the paper reports. They are looking “for their kids to be whomever they happen to be, to be loved for whoever they are, and to be given the freedom to be who they are as individuals and to live successful and happy lives,” he said. “And that’s what this boils down to.”

Gov. Charlie Baker, a moderate Republican, has not said if he will sign the legislation — Senate Bill 735 and House Bill 1577 — if it comes to him, although activists have pressed him to take a stand on it. He did offer encouraging words when asked about it in a radio interview last month. “I take tremendous pride in the fact that on many of these issues I’ve been on what I would describe as the right side of history,” Baker told WGBH radio host Jim Braude.

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