BOSTON – Wednesday, June 8, 2011-- Joining a broad coalition of human rights advocates, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick today issued a letter expressing his support and urging the prompt passage of legislation regarding transgender and privacy rights. The intent of House Bill No. 502 and Senate Bill No. 764, which are being heard today in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, is to add “gender identity and expression” to existing Massachusetts civil rights laws, which currently prohibit discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national, origin, sexual orientation, sex and marital status in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, education and credit. The bill would also add offenses regarding gender identity or expression to the list of offenses that are subject to treatment as hate crimes.
“By including ‘gender identity or expression’ to the list of protected class categories, my administration made a commitment to ensure that transgender individuals will have equal access to executive branch employment as well as executive branch services, programs and activities. However, while I believe the issuance of the Executive Order was an important first step to take, our work remains incomplete,” said Governor Patrick in his letter. “I ask that the Legislature take the next step and modernize state no- discrimination and hate crimes laws to include protections for transgender persons.”
In February, Governor Patrick signed an Executive Order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression for state employees and state contracts. Executive order 526 supersedes Executive order 478 and expands the executive branch’s policy of non-discrimination, equal opportunity and diversity to include “gender identity or expression” to the list of protected class categories.
“I welcome the Governor’s support and testimony in favor of this legislation. Enactment of this bill will bring Massachusetts in line with 15 other states and 136 cities and counties across the nation affording housing, employment, credit and safety protections to a class of individuals repeatedly targeted,” said Senator Benjamin B. Downing. “I am hopeful we will see passage of this important civil rights legislation during this session.”
“Governor Patrick has demonstrated strong leadership on this issue. We have support from Attorney General Martha Coakley. We’ve seen action at the federal level and in fifteen other states. It’s time for Massachusetts to do the same,” said Representative Carl Sciortino. “I applaud the Governor for his leadership in issuing Executive Order 526. The only result we’ve seen from it is providing equal rights to transgender employees. The sky hasn’t fallen as our opponents claimed it would.”
“Massachusetts has a long proud history of championing human and civil rights. We have demonstrated that all people deserve to be treated fairly with dignity and respect. Almost all of these protections have followed controversial debate,” said Representative Byron Rushing. “Transgender people have proven their case of being discriminated against. This legislation will give them no special rights but only provide them the same protections that other groups which have been historically discriminated against have been granted over the years by this General Court. When this becomes law we will all soon be using it as one more example of our proud history of tolerance for diversity.”
“Governor Patrick is a champion for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and we applaud him for supporting the Transgender Equal Rights Bill. He showed true leadership when he issued an executive order in February protecting transgender state employees from workplace discrimination,” said Kara Suffredini, Esq., Executive Director of MassEquality. “We hope the Legislature follows his example and protects all transgender residents of the Commonwealth.”
“Transgender residents of this state experience discrimination and violence at rates much higher than the general population,” said Gunner Scott, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. “We are grateful for Gov. Patrick’s leadership in supporting legislation that will make an immediate difference in people’s lives, and we hope the Legislature quickly passes this bill.”