Trans­gen­der rights bill passes 33-4 in state Se­nate vote

Pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions bill now heads to the House.

Metro USA (Boston) - - NEWS - SPENCER BUELL @MetroBOS

The Mas­sachusetts Se­nate on Thurs­day passed its ver­sion of a bill grant­ing new pro­tec­tions to trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als.

The bill passed, 33-4. Repub­li­can Sens. Bruce Tarr, Ryan Fattman, Vinny deMacedo and Don­ald Hu­ma­son voted against the bill, ac­cord­ing to the State House News Ser­vice.

The vote comes af­ter a month­s­long bat­tle over the leg­is­la­tion, which would outlaw dis­crim­i­na­tion against trans­gen­der peo­ple in pub­lic places, among them parks, restau­rants and pub­lic bath­rooms. A 2011 state law adding pro­tec­tions for trans­gen­der peo­ple did not in­clude lan­guage on pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions.

The is­sue of bath­room use by the trans­gen­der pop­u­la­tion has be­come a na­tional po­lit­i­cal flash­point, with pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates weigh­ing in and North Carolina pass­ing a law that re­stricts ac­cess to bath­rooms to birth gen­der, rather than iden­tity. The law has been chal­lenged by the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment and sparked protests and tourist and eco­nomic boy­cotts.

In a pre­pared state­ment on Thurs­day, Kasey Suf­fre­dini, co-chair of Free­dom Mas­sachusetts, a coali­tion that has ar­gued in fa­vor of the bill, called Thurs­day’s vote “his­toric.”

The bill’s pas­sage “sends a mes­sage the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity has longed for decades to hear — that we are truly wel­come and val­ued in our com­mon­wealth,” Suf­fre­dini said. “We urge the House to swiftly bring this bill to a vote and bring it one step closer to the gov­er­nor’s desk and be­com­ing

law. Mas­sachusetts is ready.”

“My heart breaks with grat­i­tude. I can’t thank you enough,” Lorelei Eri­sis, a trans­gen­der woman from Ayer, said in a press con­fer­ence to Se­nate Democrats, ac­cord­ing to the News Ser­vice.

Op­po­nents have re­ferred to the leg­is­la­tion dis­parag­ingly as the

“bath­room bill,” be­cause it would make it il­le­gal to deny peo­ple from us­ing the bath­room that cor­re­sponds with their gen­der iden­tity. They have ar­gued it would vi­o­late pri­vacy rights, par­tic­u­larly for women and young girls.

Hu­ma­son, a Repub­li­can se­na­tor from West­field, ex­plained his “no” vote to the News Ser­vice.

“Ul­ti­mately, I guess my con­cern was any time there is no set stan­dard and it’s based sim­ply on self-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and that self-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion can change from one day to the next, that be­comes very dif­fi­cult as a leg­is­la­tor to sup­port and as a gov­ern­ment to in­sti­tute,” he said. “It’s al­most un­en­force­able, be­cause it’s based sim­ply on how some­one feels on that par­tic­u­lar day.”

An amend­ment to the bill, which would have sought to pu­n­ish those who abuse the law to en­ter bath­rooms for im­proper pur­poses, failed, 26-11, ac­cord­ing to WBZ Newsra­dio’s Ben Parker.

Ear­lier in the day, se­na­tors voted, 33-4, to add lan­guage to the bill mak­ing it take ef­fect im­me­di­ately if it is passed and signed into law.

“In Mas­sachusetts we are civil rights pi­o­neers by na­ture,” said bill spon­sor Sen. So­nia ChangDiaz, who spon­sored the amend­ment, ac­cord­ing to the News Ser­vice.

A de­bate in the House, where the bill faces more op­po­si­tion, is ex­pected in the com­ing weeks.

Gov. Charlie Baker has not voiced an opin­ion ei­ther way on the bill, but his ad­min­is­tra­tion has sug­gested he would not veto it.

“My heart breaks with grat­i­tude. I can’t thank you enough.” Eri­sis


The trans­gen­der flag flies in Bos­ton

A gen­der-neu­tral bath­room sign GETTY IM­AGES

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