[JURIST] The Massachusetts legislature [official website] passed a bill [H3810 text] Tuesday night that will protect transgender people in housing, credit and the workplace, as well as including them under hate crime protections. The bill passed the House by a vote of 115-37 and the Senate by a vote of 95-56 and was sent to be signed by Governor Deval Patrick [official website]. The bill includes gender identity under the state’s non-discrimination statutes, except public accommodations, and amends existing laws to protect people targeted for violence and harassment. The bill adds the following definition to the General Laws of Massachusetts:
“Gender identity” shall mean a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held, as part of a person’s core identity; provided however, gender-related identity shall not be asserted for improper purpose.
Opponents claim the bill is an invitation to lawsuits and a threat to small business, and the legislature should be focusing on the economy and job creation. Proponents deem the passage necessary to ensure the rights of transgender people and reduce the significant threats they face. Upon governor signature, Massachusetts will become the sixteenth state to pass similar legislation protecting the class of transgender people.
Protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals remains a diverse political issue. In June of this year, Connecticut passed similar legislation [JURIST report] defining “gender identity or expression” and providing protection in the state’s existing anti-discrimination laws. Other national action includes measures to stop hate crimes against LGBT individuals. In March, US Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) [official websites] introduced legislation to protect LGBT students from bullying [JURIST report] in federally funded public elementary and high schools. In 2009, US President Barack Obama signed into law [JURIST report] a bill that contained a measure extending the definition of federal hate crimes to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Internationally, homosexuality remains a criminal offense in more than 70 countries around the world, and statistics show that anti-LGBT crimes are on the rise worldwide and in the US [JURIST reports]. These crimes, in addition to the absence of state protection against employment discrimination, have been estimated to cost US states millions of dollars annually [JURIST op-ed].