LGBT Advocate Groups React to the Passing of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Thursday November 17, 2011

It was announced yesterday that Massachusetts passed a bill in both houses of the state legislatures that would protect transgender people from discrimination, the Associated Press reported.

The Transgender Equal Rights Bill still needs final votes in both houses before Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who supports the bill, can sign it.

"Transgender individuals in Massachusetts face unacceptably high levels of violence and discrimination in their daily lives," state Rep. Carl Sciortino Jr., a Medford Democrat who co-sponsored the bill said in an ABC article. "This bill will extend our statutory civil rights and hate crime protections to the transgender community."

Not only were several politicians thrilled by the decision but also a number of gay rights organizations saw this as a step in the right direction for equality.

"This bill includes essential protections for transgender residents, who are not currently protected in any areas of the Commonwealth's civil rights laws," Gunner Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, said in a statement. "We strongly urge the Senate to quickly pass this bill."

Kara Suffredini, executive director of MassEquality said in a press release that the organization is grateful for the State Representatives' leadership in promoting the transgender legislation.

The bill will protect about 33,000 transgendered citizens in Massachusetts. It will make sure transgendered people have equal rights in employment, housing, education, credit and much more.

"We support this bill," said Jennifer Levi, director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders' Transgender Rights Project. "We want complete protections for transgender people - including in public accommodations - but also know that in order to get there, we cannot walk away from the legislature's first step toward achieving those full protections."

The Human Rights Campaign also praised the Massachusetts Legislature for passing the bill.

"The Massachusetts legislature today recognized that transgender residents should be treated equally and protected under the law," HRC President Joe Solmonese, said in a statement. "The Transgender Equal Rights Bill has languished for years, but today the Legislature sent a clear message of fairness and equality."

The organization has helped to create public and legislative support for the Transgender Equal Rights Bill. The HRC and supporters have contacted several lawmakers to promote the bill, according to a press release by the HRC. Solmonese sent testimony to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary as well, pleading that officials need pass the bill quickly in order to bring equality to transgender residents of Massachusetts.

Although MassResistance, an anti-gay group located in Massachusetts, has yet issues a statement about the Transgendered Equality Bill passing, they did condemn a hearing that was held late last month at the State House about a similar bill. Activists and officials met to amend an anti-bullying law that was created last year. The legislation protects gay children for being bullied in school but lobbyists wanted it to include transgendered children as well.

"On October 25 the homosexual and transgender lobby came in full force to the State House to push a bill to amend last year's anti-bullying law, to make homosexuality and "gender identity or expression" (i.e., boys wearing dresses, etc.) as protected classes in schools," MassResistance said in a Nov. 9, post. "Among other things, it would require special anti-bullying diversity training and the banning of any criticism of those behaviors by students or staff. It would affect virtually all public and private schools in Massachusetts."