MassEquality News (August 3, 2018)

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MassEquality News

August 3, 2018


The Massachusetts State House2017-2018 Legislative Session Brings Historic Wins for the LGBTQ Community

The 2017-2018 Massachusetts legislative session officially ended on July 31st at midnight, with legislators working right up until the deadline to pass several important bills. Among this session's legislative victories for LGBTQ people across Massachusetts are a first-in-the-nation law addressing the need for LGBT awareness training for aging services providers and provisions in the criminal justice reform law that recognize the needs of transgender and other LGBTQ prisoners and help to protect them from harassment and other harms.

MassEquality thanks all of the advocates and supporters who worked so hard to push these bills to the finish line. We also thank the lead sponsors and co-sponsors, and all of the legislators who voted to support LGBTQ rights and protect our community members by passing laws to make Massachusetts a safer, stronger and more fair state for everyone.

Nurse kneels by an older woman sitting in a wheelchair LGBT Awareness Training for Aging Services Providers - Signed into law 7/26/2018
This groundbreaking law will have a huge, positive impact on the lives of LGBT older adults here in Massachusetts. It requires the Executive Office of Elder Affairs to develop a curriculum for delivery of accessible and appropriate services for LGBTQ older adults. It also requires all state-funded or -licensed aging services providers to complete this training and ensure that LGBTQ seniors can access services without fear of discrimination. This legislation was included in the Massachusetts FY 2019 budget, which was signed by Governor Baker late last month.

Prison hallway seen through a transparent rainbow flagCriminal Justice Reform Bill - Signed into law 4/13/18
This sweeping overhaul of the Commonwealth's criminal justice system includes important provisions protecting LGBTQ prisoners from the arbitrary use of restrictive housing (solitary confinement), ensuring that transgender prisoners are housed with prisoners of the same gender identity unless it would endanger the prisoner or others, and creating a special commission to study the health and safety of LGBTQ prisoners in state facilities. These provisions recognize the needs of LGBTQ people in the criminal justice system and address the harassment and ostracism that transgender and other LGBTQ prisoners may experience while housed in Massachusetts jails, prisons and other correctional facilities. Only Massachusetts and Connecticut currently offer these protections to transgender prisoners.

Scrabble tiles scattered on a wooden tabletop, with the word "BUDGET" spelled out on a tile holderState Budget Items Supporting LGBTQ Youth, Elders and HIV/AIDS Services
The Massachusetts state budget for the 2019 fiscal year was signed by Governor Baker on Thursday, July 26th. Among the many line items included in the budget are two that particularly impact members of the LGBTQ community:

  • $900,000 is earmarked for youth-at-risk programs utilizing an evidence-based positive youth development model, including programs that serve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth.
  • $30,834,416 is allotted for HIV/AIDS services, programs and related services for persons affected by the associated conditions of viral hepatitis, sexually transmitted infections and tuberculosis.

NASTY Women Act (An Act negating archaic statutes targeting young women) - Signed into law 7/27/2018
This law repeals several archaic and superseded statutes pertaining to abortion, fornication and adultery. MassEquality worked with NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and Rep. Byron Rushing to include outdated laws affecting the LGBTQ community under this legislation, but that language was removed from the bill. We will continue working with Rep. Rushing and other lawmakers to ensure that sodomy laws and other archaic laws that impact our community are repealed.

White medical symbol against a rainbow flag backgroundACCESS Act (An Act Advancing Contraceptive Coverage and Economic Security in our State) - Signed into law 11/20/2017
This   law ensures that Massachusetts residents have access to affordable birth control, requires insurers to cover all birth control products, and prevents insurers from interfering in womens' health decisions.

PATCH Act (An Act to protect access to confidential healthcare) - Signed into law 4/2/2018
This law ensures the confidentiality of private health information on insurance statements, which is vital for LGBTQ youth, minors, people with HIV/AIDS, and anyone on another person's health plan.

[Photo credits: State House - Hsin Ju HSU CC-BY-3.0; elder with nurse - U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andrew Lavin CC-BY-2.0; Rainbow prison cells - public domain; Scrabble tiles - Nick Youngson CC-BY-SA-3.0 Alpha Stock Images; Rainbow flag with caduceus - public domain]


The current legislative session may have ended, but MassEquality is still working hard every day to pass laws to protect LGBTQ people in Massachusetts and to elect candidates to public office who will fight for equality and protect our rights.

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Legislative Session Ends Before Conversion Therapy Ban Enacted

Photo of the Senate Chamber in the Massachusetts State HouseOne of MassEquality's top priorities for this legislative session, the Conversion Therapy Ban bill, was passed by the Senate late on July 31st, the last day of the session. The bill was among the final measures brought to the floor as the session neared its end, and both advocates and legislators worked for hours to usher the bill through the legislative process. MassEquality was at the State House until after midnight working to get the bill passed. Unfortunately, legislators were unable to complete the process to send the bill to the Governor's desk before the deadline despite concerted efforts by supporters in both the Senate and the House.

MassEquality thanks Representative Kay Khan and Senator Mark Montigny for their leadership on this issue and for championing this bill throughout the legislative session. We also thank the legislators who voted in favor of the bill, the Senate President and Speaker of the House for their leadership and support, and the many advocates and supporters who worked hard to bring the bill to a vote and pass it. We're especially grateful to the brave survivors who testified in support of this bill, sharing their stories of being subjected to conversion therapy and speaking movingly on the need to protect LGBTQ youth from this dangerous practice.

Although we are disappointed that the bill was not enacted despite the hard work of many advocates, legislators and supporters, we are encouraged by the fact that both the House and Senate voted to pass the bill and worked hard to move it through the legislative process before the deadline. We're confident that this bill will make strong progress during the next legislative session, and we will continue working towards the day when young people need not fear being subjected to conversion therapy in the Commonwealth.

[Photo credit: Logan Ingalls CC-BY-2.0]


Bills for the Next Legislative Session

In addition to the Conversion Therapy Ban bill, several other bills of importance to the LGBTQ community did not pass during the 2017-18 legislative session. Those bills, plus others that will be filed in response to community needs, will be added to our Champions Agenda for the next legislative session. We sincerely thank all of the bills' lead sponsors and co-sponsors, and all of the advocates, supporters and legislators who worked throughout this session to pass these bills. MassEquality will continue to work with our colleagues, coalition partners and supporters to pass these bills and others that will help protect community members and defend equality in Massachusetts.

Youth march down a city street holding the edge of a giant rainbow flagHealthy Youth Act - Passed in the Senate on 7/20/17, stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee
This bill would ensure that students receive medically accurate, comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education information in school. LGBTQ youth are particularly impacted by poor sex education, and this bill would improve the quality of sex education for students across the Commonwealth.

Gender Marker Bill - Passed in the Senate on 6/28/2018, stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee
This bill would allow Massachusetts residents to have "X" as the gender marker on their state-issued identification. MassEquality's Executive Director, Deborah Shields, was a guest speaker at a press conference held in support of the bill shortly before the Senate voted on it.

Electronic tablet on a table displaying words related to HIV and AIDS.HIV Screening and Prevention Bill - Stalled in the Senate Ways and Means Committee
This bill would lift barriers to accessing HIV and STI prevention, screening and treatment by expanding access to prevention services for minors; studying out-of-network insurance coverage of HIV/STI screening services; and updating HIV screening and record-sharing laws.

Supporting Homeless Youth in Making Healthcare Decisions - Stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee
This bill would ensure homeless youth are more easily able to prove they are managing their own financial affairs as currently required to consent to medical and dental care.

Strengthening Civil Rights - Pending hearing on the House floor, no vote in the Senate
This bill would prohibit businesses and corporations from discriminating against customers and clients based on religious belief within Massachusetts. The bill was filed in response to the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling by the Supreme Court. MassEquality's Executive Director, Deborah Shields, testified in support of this bill before the House's Trump Administration working group.

Healthcare Reform Bill - Passed in House on 6/19/2018, stalled in Conference Committee
This bill, which contains a large number of healthcare-related provisions, was passed in the House on June 19th. It includes an amendment by Rep. Dylan Fernandes to expand the scope of medical studies to include data on gender identity and sexuality. The amendment was filed in response to the Trump administration's decision to stop collecting healthcare data on the LGBTQ community.

[Photo credit:Giuseppe Milo CC-BY-2.0; Nick Youngson CC-BY-SA-3.0 Alpha Stock Images]


What's Coming Next: YES on 3, Electoral Campaigns and More

A pair of feet in red, white and blue sneakers form a V in the word VOTE, written in white chalk on a sidewalk.Now that the legislative session has ended, MassEquality is turning its attention to the upcoming election in November. The MassEquality PAC has endorsed candidates in a number of state-wide races, and we will also keep working with our colleagues at Freedom for All Massachusetts on the YES on 3 ballot question campaign.

Stay tuned for more news about the upcoming elections, YES on 3 and volunteer opportunities.

[Photo credit: CC-BY-2.0]


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