Governor To Mark Historic Passage of Transgender Equal Rights Bill With Ceremonial Bill Signing

 BOSTON, JANUARY 5, 2012—Governor Deval Patrick will mark the historic passage of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill with a signing ceremony at the Statehouse on Thursday, January 19 at 11 a.m.

“This bill includes essential protections for transgender youth, adults, and families and is a life-changing piece of legislation,” said Gunner Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. “Its passage is historic and we are thrilled that Gov. Patrick will mark the achievement with a public ceremony at the Statehouse. While we celebrate today, we are also continuing our advocacy and education about the need for the vital protections that are missing in public accommodations.”

“Governor Patrick was a staunch advocate of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill from the earliest days of his administration, and we applaud his unwavering leadership in creating a Commonwealth where all hardworking people, including transgender people, will have the opportunity to make a living, put a roof over their heads, and get an education without fear of being discriminated against simply because of who they are,” said Kara Suffredini, executive director of MassEquality. “We are looking forward to working with the governor and lawmakers in getting a public accommodations law passed that will also protect transgender people from discrimination in public places like restaurants, grocery stores, trains and buses, and other places where daily life is routinely conducted.”

"We deeply appreciate the Governor's unequivocal support of transgender equal rights. His leadership in support of LGBT equality continues to be unparalleled among elected leaders. And we are very grateful that House and Senate leaders were willing to put this important bill on their agenda and make sure it passed before the end of the year,” said Arline Isaacson, Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. “Speaker Robert DeLeo was invaluable in the leadership role he played by insisting that the House vote on the measure. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice because we bend it in the direction of justice.”

“The bill that Governor Patrick ceremonially signs today adds essential protections for transgender people to our laws,” said Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project. “We are grateful for the Governor’s leadership and commitment demonstrated throughout the legislative process. Today we rightly celebrate this historic achievement but do so with the knowledge that we cannot stop working until transgender people enjoy comprehensive civil rights protections including in all areas of public accommodation. We look forward to working with the Governor and the legislature in the future to achieve that important goal.”

More than 100 businesses in the Bay State already have provisions in place prohibiting employment-based discrimination and this law will broadly expand the number of businesses and employers where transgender people can work without fear of discrimination. A February, 2011 report found that 76 percent of transgender people in Massachusetts have been harassed on the job because of their gender identity; 20 percent have lost their job because of their gender identity; and 17 percent have been denied a promotion because they are transgender.

The same report also found that 17 percent of transgender residents have been denied housing because of their gender identity, and 10 percent of transgender residents have been homeless because they could not find work. Fifteen percent of transgender people make $10,000 or less in annual household income while only three percent of the general population makes $10,000 or less in annual household income.

The Commonwealth of 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 their gender identity.

The bill was passed by the House 95-58 on Nov. 15, and by the Senate the following day on a voice vote. Gov. Patrick signed it into law Nov. 23. When the law takes effect on July 1, 2012 Massachusetts will join 15 other states and the District of Columbia in extending critical protections to transgender residents in employment, housing, education, credit, and hate crimes.