The Massachusetts House and Senate leaders reached an agreement on a transgender rights bill on Wednesday. The move comes after a decade of discord on the issue. Lawmakers expect to receive final votes on Thursday and have it on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk by the end of the week.
“The proposed law will allow people to use facilities such as locker rooms, restrooms and changing rooms in accordance with their gender identity.”
The proposed law allow people to use facilities such as locker rooms, restrooms and changing rooms in accordance with their gender identity. It would also protect transgender citizens from discrimination in public accommodations such as restaurants, libraries, malls and museums. The compromise was made by a six member committee that was tasked with resolving differences between the versions of the bill that passed in the Senate in a 33-4 vote and the House by a 116-26 margin.
The compromise contains a provision requiring the Massachusetts Attorney General to issue guideline to law enforcement regarding how to handle “improper” claims of gender identity. Governor Baker has already expressed his willingness to sign the bill into law as long as such a provision was in place. The purpose of the provision was to appease critics who were worried that predators would use gender identity as a way to get access to women’s facilities. It was originally included in the House version of the bill but not the Senate version.
Another compromise was made regarding the timing of when the law would take effect. The Senate bill had the law taking effect immediately after the Governor signs it while the house version had it going into effect on January 1st. The compromise now requires the Attorney General and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to draft guidelines for implementing the law by September 1st with all provisions going into effect on October 1st.
Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who introduced the Senate Bill and served on the conference committee, stated the move was crucial in light of recent anti-LGBT events. She also took to twitter:
— Sonia Chang-Díaz (@SoniaChangDiaz) July 6, 2016
“I’m proud to see us standing on the right side of history,” Chang-Diaz said in a statement. Also weighing in was House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who said, “I’m proud of this bill that fully reflects Massachusetts’ tradition of tolerance and inclusion.”
A transgender rights bill was first introduced by former Representative Carl M. Sciortino Jr. back in 2007. It had been almost a decade long struggle for the state legislature to reach a compromise. Sciortino Jr. reflected on how far the transgender community has come in the last decade stating, “This is really a testament to them (the transgender community) and their families for telling their stories and being patient with the process,” he said. “I look forward to celebrating with my trans brothers and sisters after the bill is signed into law.”