Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has signed into law a Transgender Equal Rights Bill. The new law bans discrimination in employment, housing, education and credit based on gender identity or expression. The bill also expands the state’s hate crimes protections to include transgender people.
The bill addresses problems shown by a February 2011 study by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. It found that 76 percent of the estimated 33,000 transgender people in Massachusetts have been harassed on the job because of their gender identity, 20 percent have lost a job because of their gender identity and 17 percent have been denied a promotion because they are transgender.
17 percent of transgender residents have been denied housing because of their gender identity, and 10 percent of transgender residents have been made homeless because they could not find work.
Massachusetts spends at least $3 million annually on public benefits for transgender residents who are eligible to work but can’t find a job because of the discrimination they face.
Gavi Wolfe, legislative counsel for the ACLU of Massachusetts, said:
This bill gives transgender people an equal shot at obtaining everyday basics we all need – a job, a place to live, an education. It’s a major step forward for fairness, but we won’t stop working until transgender people are fully protected under the Commonwealth’s civil rights laws, including in public accommodations.
In February, Gov. Patrick issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination against transgender state employees.
Massachusetts now joins 15 other states, the District of Columbia, and 136 cities and towns around the country that have passed laws and ordinances protecting transgender people from discrimination.
The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) said that the bill does not include protections within public accommodations.
“MTPC and our coalition partners fought hard to try to get public accommodations restored in the Senate version of the bill, and were unsuccessful in doing so. Although this bill does not include public accommodations, this is a historic and important victory in the fight for achieving transgender equality in Massachusetts.”
“It is because of the courage of our community members to come forward and tell their personal stories about themselves, their family members, and their friends that we have accomplished this milestone,” said Nancy Nangeroni, Steering Committee Chair of MTPC.
A survey released in early November found that Americans overwhelmingly supported equal rights for transgender people. Three out of four Americans said Congress should pass employment nondiscrimination laws that protect transgender people, and support for the legislation cut across party and religious lines.
Picture by Sonia Kiss