Massachusetts passes law protecting trans residents

Today in Boston, a ceremony marked a newly passed MA state law which prohibits discrimination against transgender residents in employment, housing, insurance and credit.

Governor Deval Patrick told a crowded Statehouse ceremony on Thursday that he was happy to approve the bill as a “matter of conscience” in order to protect the rights and dignity of an estimated 33,000 transgender citizens in Massachusetts.

The law also extends the state’s hate crime laws to cover transgender people. Attorney General Martha Coakley said her office was ready to enforce the new law, adding that she hopes it won’t often be necessary. There is a long-standing debate about the impact of hate crimes legislation.  see here for an analysis opposing such legislation.

That said, in a time when (trigger warning) some legislators are saying hateful and horrible things about trans folks, such legislation is promising and marks a move toward important legal protections.

Join the Conversation

  • toongrrl

    I’m becoming increasingly more optimistic about progress. I think we are all on the right side of history here at Feministing

  • Renee

    Yes and no. It’s hard to ignore that the Massachusetts law falls short of public accommodations, which is exactly what Congressman Floyd is on the warpath about. There’s always going to be arguments for and against incremental politics, and this will definitely help trans people in Massachusetts, but at the same time, I wouldn’t hold it up in contrast to Floyd’s statements, because in truth it’s a little complicit with him.

  • Gina Morvay

    Any mention of this legislation needs to emphasize how it doesn’t protect trans people in educational settings, bathrooms, changing rooms, facilities for the homeless, jails, restaurants/bars and potentially dozens of other situations which fall under the category of public accommodations. Is it better than nothing… yes. Is it highly flawed and unlikely to be made complete in the next few years… yes. 10 years ago I would have been excited about legislation like this, but in 2012 it’s just not good enough, especially for a supposedly ‘blue’ state like Massachusetts. And I’m seeing too many media outlets which make it sound like some kind of unqualified success. If you wish to celebrate your own incrementally granted rights, go ahead and do so. I’ll pass.

  • Cassandra Lease

    While this is indeed excellent news, I have to stand with Renee and Gina: the law does not go far enough, and the fight must continue. While some cities and towns in Massachusetts (such as Boston and Cambridge) offer more comprehensive protections, the fact remains that, statewide, trans people are not guaranteed access to the appropriate bathrooms or changing rooms, and may still be kicked out of restaurants, bars and other public accommodations. It is alarming that Barney Frank has held this bill up as an example of legislation that should be enacted across the country, because protections in public accommodations are essential to true equality.

    We have won a skirmish. This is not total victory.

  • Jos

    The lack of public accommodations protections is a huge problem. Access to public space is vital, especially for the most vulnerable members of the trans community. I wrote about this issue a little bit when the MD bill was going down. And I am opposed to hate crime laws.

    I was born and raised in Boston. I find this partial victory hard to swallow – the losses it contains are big. I know more about what went down in MD and the role of privilege there and less about the specifics of this MA case. But history (and the knowledge I do have of Mass’ trans community) makes me wonder if this is one of those instances where some of the more privileged (probably largely white) members of the trans community feel they got a win whle other voices where shut out.