As of July 1st, when the Transgender Equal Rights Bill takes effect, transgender people will have clear legal recourse if they face discrimination at work, in public housing, education or when they apply for credit. This is a straightforward and perhaps simple piece of legislation that will have a monumental impact on the lives of the Massachusetts transgender community.
The issue of equal rights for the transgender community has been around for some time. The original legislation was introduced in November of 2007. Now almost five years later, Massachusetts joins 15 other states who have added gender identity to the non-discrimination laws in the areas of employment, housing, K-12 public education and credit. The new law also adds “gender identity” to the Massachusetts hate crimes statutes.
Since the very beginning, the BBA has worked with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition on this historic piece of legislation. Among other advocacy measures, the BBA has participated at public hearings by testifying in support of the legislation both as an access to justice issue and as a diversity and inclusion issue. As we’ve written before in Issue Spot, adding the term “gender identity” really is a basic civil rights protection. But the acceptance of that term also signifies the recognition that diversity can be a major asset for society and businesses.
While this new law brings some protections to challenges faced by members of the transgender community, it does not expressly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in public accommodations. Existing Massachusetts laws do provide some support for claims brought in public accommodations cases, but the lack of explicit protections in regard to discrimination in public accommodations fails to clarify how these types of cases will be resolved. For more information about the public accommodations aspect of this issue check out this recent, insightful Boston Bar Journal article.
So while we pause to celebrate this new law taking effect we realize there’s more work to be done in this area. Advocates plan to revisit discrimination in public accommodations during the next legislative session.
Government Relations Director
Boston Bar Association
Comments are disabled for this blog. To share your comments e-mail email@example.com
The BBA is where public policy, legal practice and the law intersect. Our programs are designed to encourage dialogue among lawyers and policymakers. We also provide a venue for provocative big-picture discussions and help members stay on top of new laws and changing issues. Coming up are two programs that are closely tied to the BBA’s public policy process. The programs are focused on the implications of the passage of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 and the Transgender Equal Rights Bill. Both will greatly impact the way lawyers advise clients in the Commonwealth.
The BBA has worked on these issues for years – testifying at public hearings, engaging legislators in conversations, strategizing with other supporters and providing public comments. In the case of alimony reform, the BBA was proud to be at the table when the new law was being drafted. These bills were passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Patrick with much fanfare.
While we have always worked to move the ball forward, we realize that it’s one thing to be able to help shape legislation and another to be able to help implement and educate the public about the new law. In the next few weeks the BBA will host programs featuring informative educational components of these new laws. You can find more information on the programs using the links below:
CLE – Alimony Reform: Here and Now
What You Need to Know About the Transgender Equal Rights Law
Wednesday marked the beginning of the second year of the two-year session with the House and Senate participating in familiar formalities after a seven-week recess. While the House and Senate sessions were not lengthy, they were steeped in pomp and circumstance. The ceremonial start of the session included the formation of special committees and delegations in the House and Senate. These groups were tasked with informing each branch and Governor Patrick that it’s time to resume work, proceed with the business of lawmaking and to work together in the best interest of the state.
What will the BBA be doing in the second half of the legislative session? We’ll still be working to move our own bills towards the legislative finish line. That means picking up on progress that was made during the first half of the session and working hard to ensure that our other issues are given their due consideration before legislative committees. That requires meeting with the sponsors of our bills and fellow proponents, but also with any opponents.
There’s more to be done on criminal justice reform and it appears that January will present the House with an opportunity to consider and debate sentencing reform. January will also kick-start the debate on the state budget with the Governor’s budget recommendations set to be released on January 25th. With recent leadership changes, it’s now a question of building new allies and educating them about the importance of the things we care about. Heading into the second-half of the session, the BBA is looking forward not only to more legislative victories, but also educating the public on their impacts on the practice of law.
– Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association
Comments are disabled for this blog. To submit your comments please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org