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Massachusetts Gov. Offers Encouraging Words on Trans Rights Bill

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker

Gov. Charlie Baker still hasn't actually endorsed the pending public accommodations legislation, but today he gave strong indications of support.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who has been criticized for not taking a stand on a transgender public accommodations bill, gave a strong indication Thursday that he would not veto the bill if it reaches him.

"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, who pressed him on the issue.

A Massachusetts law passed in 2011 bans discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, credit, and public education. It excludes public accommodations, the subject of the currently pending House Bill 1577 and Senate Bill 735.

If the public accommodations bill becomes law, transgender people could not be denied service at businesses, nor could they be denied access to the restrooms, locker room, and other sex-segregated facilities that match their gender identity.

Baker stopped short of endorsing the bill, "but his comments on the radio coupled with a statement from his spokeswoman painted a picture of a politician unlikely to veto the legislation," The Boston Globe reports.

After Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said today that trans people should be allowed to use whatever facilities they choose, Baker, also a Republican, was asked what he thought of the comment. Spokeswoman Lizzy Guyton replied, "The governor supports 2011 transgender protections and believes no one should be discriminated against based on their gender identity, and looks forward to reviewing a bill should the Legislature act," similar to previous statements from the governor's office, the Globe reports. She added, "Governor Baker believes people should use the restroom facility they feel comfortable using."

Baker has been pressured to take a stand on the legislation, but he has declined, saying he doesn't take a position on pending bills -- something that is not always the case. He was booed offstage at an LGBT business event last week.

Freedom Massachusetts campaign manager Carly Burton issued a statement applauding Baker's apparent movement on the bill, the Globe reports. "We applaud Governor Baker for opposing discrimination and, as part of that, supporting the ability of transgender people to use the restrooms that match who they are," she said. "He has been on the right side of history on other important LGBT issues, and we hope he'll do the same with the transgender public accommodations bill by signing it into law. We urge the Legislature to move quickly to send the bill to Governor Baker's desk."

The leaders of the Massachusetts House and Senate, both Democrats, are strong supporters of the legislation, the Globe notes. The Senate is expected to take it up in May.

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