Transgender Rights Bill Could Be Headed to Baker’s Desk

Lawmakers reached a compromise on Wednesday.


Lawmakers in both chambers could take up the bill on Thursday. / Photo by Alex Lau

It looks like it’s finally happening. Lawmakers have reached an agreement over the transgender non-discrimination bill, which would add more protections for the state’s trans community in public places.

A committee today finished working through differences between the House and Senate’s bills, and the lawmakers told reporters they found common ground.

Now it’s scheduled to come up for votes in both chambers on Thursday. Gov. Charlie Baker is expected to sign it.

Kasey Suffredini, co-chair of Freedom Massachusetts, the coalition that has been pushing lawmakers to pass the bill, celebrated the agreement in a statement on the group’s website:

We are tremendously grateful to members of the conference committee who successfully worked together to report out a strong bill that addresses all questions posed by our campaign and which puts the law into effect more immediately, so that transgender people will not have to wait until next year to be ensured protections.

With Baker’s signature, the law would take effect in October, according to the State House News Service. That date is the result of a compromise between the Senate version, which called for the law to kick in right away, and the House version, which sought to hold off until January.

According to SHNS, the law would direct Attorney General Maura Healey to come up with a plan for how to prosecute people who might, hypothetically, feign a gender identity to access bathrooms or locker rooms for nefarious purposes—people who, as we know from states with laws similar to the one being debated here, are largely imaginary.

That’s a compromise, too: the House version had the “improper purpose” language in the bill; the Senate’s version didn’t.

Debate about the law centered on the fact that the law would guarantee people access to the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity and not necessarily with the sex assigned to them at birth. Opponents argued in particular that biological women shouldn’t have to share those spaces with transgender women who were born men.

Until recently, Baker didn’t take a position on whether he would veto the bill. He announced he would support the House version in May.

His reluctance to commit one way or the other on the legislation infamously led to him being booed off stage at an LGBT event, where he was the keynote speaker.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg both supported the bill’s passage, as did Mayor Marty Walsh, who said he would fly a transgender pride flag at City Hall until it passed.

The legislation would be an update to a state law passed in 2011, which shields transgender people from discrimination in employment and housing. The 2011 law left out protections in public places like malls, restaurants, parks, and movie theaters.

Massachusetts would be the 18th state to pass similar legislation, according to Freedom Massachusetts.