Mass. transgender discrimination law officially in effect this week

Graphic by Hannah Roach '17

Graphic by Hannah Roach '17

BY HANNAH ROACH '17

This past weekend saw a major increase in the rights of transgender individuals in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Massachusetts law that prohibits any discrimination against gender identity in public spaces was signed in July, and went into effect this Saturday. Massachusetts is the 18th state in the country to create such provisions for transgender people, according to the Berkshire Eagle.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination published guidelines on Sept. 1for adhering to the law. It illustrates specific rules and examples for employers, landlords, credit and mortgage services and those working in public spaces (i.e. those in retail or waitstaff). 

Their mission statement, published in the beginning of the document, illustrate their goals: “to describe what evidence may be submitted to support a claim of gender identity discrimination, to inform individuals of their rights and to assist employers, providers of housing, mortgage services and owners, managers and agents of places of public accommodation in understanding their obligations under Massachusetts law.”

The guidelines also serve as an educating tool for what gender identity means: “Gender identity encompasses individuals who are transgender. Transgender individuals are people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth.” The MCAD begins to share with the public the nuances of gender identity and fluidity.  The guidelines continue, “some individuals who fit this definition of transgender do not identify themselves as such, and identify simply as men and women, consistent with their gender identity.”

The law was signed by Republican Governor Charlie Baker and was passed by the Democratic-majority Legislature. Its passing has generated some public upset. The Massachusetts Family Institute, according to the Berkshire Eagle, is hoping to repeal this law in a Nov. 2018 public vote. The Massachusetts Family Institute published on its website: “This bill would undue that common sense precaution and force all businesses and ‘public accommodations’ to allow men who ‘identify’ as women into the ladies’ room, and vice versa.”

LGBTQ Nation, a website that advocates for the inclusion of LGBTQ individuals, quoted Mason Dunn saying that the law is a “shining moment.” Dunn is co-chair of Freedom Massachusetts, an organization that helped campaign to pass the law. He continued, saying that he felt the law testified to Massachusetts as an “inclusive and welcoming space.” 

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