House Passes Bill to Prohibit Gender-Identity Discrimination in Places of Public Accommodation

Legislation will enhance Massachusetts’ legacy as a civil rights leader

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   

Contact: Michael Gallant                                                                 


June 1, 2016                                                                                           

House Passes Bill to Prohibit Gender-Identity Discrimination in Places of Public Accommodation

Legislation will enhance Massachusetts’ legacy as a civil rights leader

(BOSTON) – Today the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed legislation that provides legal protections against discrimination related to gender identity or expression in public accommodations. The 2016 legislation - which builds off of the 2011 Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Act prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, education, credit, and hate crimes - includes the right to use the restrooms and locker rooms that match an individual’s gender identity.

“Today’s vote extends key civil rights protections to vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth who are so rightfully deserving of the same rights as all of our citizens,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I’m incredibly proud that the House worked tirelessly to foster a serious conversation which we hope will enable this bill to become a law, not merely a symbol, and I thank those who lent their expertise and shared their personal experiences.”

"Access to public accommodations is the bedrock of discrimination protections," said Representative John V. Fernandes, Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary (D-Milford). "The legislation passed today will help to give businesses and the transgender community clear guidelines on how to implement policies regulating equal access to public accommodations."

“Once again the Massachusetts Legislature has listened to a group of our citizens affected by discrimination and said ‘no more,’” said Representative Byron Rushing, Assistant Majority Leader (D-Boston). “This is government at its best. Over half of transgender persons report discrimination. It is life-compromising and sometimes even life-threatening. These rights are human rights; trans people have them because they are human. Today the Massachusetts government promises to guarantee and protect those rights. We all now live in a more just Commonwealth.”

“I am proud that the House took this historic vote today, as this fix providing legal protections is long overdue, and this bill declares that everyone who resides in the Commonwealth is equal under the law,” said Representative Stephen Kulik, Vice Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee (D-Worthington). “It’s unconscionable that, in 2016, that the transgender community may be denied access to public spaces simply because of who they are. It goes against the Commonwealth’s core values.”

To provide clarity to businesses and help mitigate harassment of transgender individuals, the bill directs the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) to adopt and promulgate policies to regarding the implementation of the law, including how and when gender identity may be evidenced. 

This legislation also directs the Attorney General’s Office to provide guidance on which agency complaints regarding the assertion of gender identity for an improper purpose should be directed, if that circumstance arises.

Under the bill, public accommodations include places such as hotels, restaurants, retail stores, taxis and trains, bathrooms, parks and entertainment venues.