Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker [official website] signed [press release] a bill (S.2407) [text] into law on Friday protecting against discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The bill was passed [JURIST report] earlier in the week by both houses of the state legislature and has been praised as a compromise between anti-discrimination and public safety. The law requires places of public accommodation such as bathrooms to allow the use of those places based on one’s sincerely held gender identity. Additionally, the public safety concerns raised by some were addressed through a portion of the law putting the state Attorney General’s Office [official website] in charge of issuing guidance for reporting any improper assertions of gender identity. After signing the bill Governor Baker stated, “No one should be discriminated against in Massachusetts because of their gender identity.” The law will take effect on October 1, after the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination [official website] and the Attorney General create appropriate regulatory guidelines, due by September 1.
Transgender access to public restrooms has been a controversial topic and has created a wave of legislative and judicial actions. Also Friday, ten states announced a lawsuit [JURIST report] against the Obama administration for its directive for schools to allow transgender to use the restroom correlating to their gender identity. In May the Obama administration issued the guidance to schools on ensuring “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment,” prompting a similar lawsuit [JURIST report] by 11 states. Also in May the Florida American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against the Marion County school district, challenging their bathroom policy as anti-transgender. The US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in May challenging North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2.