Yesterday’s public hearing marked a positive milestone in the fight to pass SB 375 and HB 1577, legislation that would extend non-discrimination protections in public spaces like gyms, restaurants and shopping malls to transgender Bay Staters.
Supporters arrived at the Statehouse at 12:45, many wearing green to show their Freedom Massachusetts’ colors, and to stand in solidarity with speakers and the movement for full transgender equality. An impressive 300 voters also submitted testimony in advance of the hearing to go on public record in favor of fully inclusive non-discrimination legislation.
There was also vocal support from elected officials. Attorney General Maura Healey highlighted inconsistencies in Massachusetts’ non-discrimination laws, saying:
A transgender person can’t be discriminated against in hiring at a restaurant but they can be denied entry. This doesn’t make sense…discomfort is not a reason to perpetuate discrimination, not in this state!
Congressman Joe Kennedy also spoke, eluding to the reputation Massachusetts is creating for itself:
Today, transgender citizens are protected from discrimination in public accommodations in 17 states and the District of Columbia. That Massachusetts’ name is missing from that list does not go unnoticed.
Testifying alongside Congressman Kennedy was a young transgender man named Brandon Adams, who took the stand to talk about his experiences being bullied at school and segregated from restroom facilities that align with his gender identity:
The school asked me to use restrooms that were segregated from the rest of my classmates. We know from history, that separate but equal rights are unconstitutional. Separate but equal makes me feel like a second-class citizen.
The public hearing marked the first step in the legislative process that will ultimately decide whether full transgender equality becomes law in Massachusetts. And though a majority of people in attendance yesterday were supporters of the legislation, dissidents remain. There is still work to be done in the fight to secure full transgender non-discrimination protections.