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Massachusetts transgender rights bill signed into law

By Shachar Peled | Jul 09, 2016

Three months after being booed off the stage for a noncommittal stance on a bill protecting transgender people's rights in public places, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has signed compromise legislation.

The new anti-discrimination law, which was passed by the Massachusetts state House and Senate this week, gives transgender people the right to use public restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identities, regardless of their sex at birth. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) will adopt policies to enforce its provisions, a statement from the governor's office said. "No one should be discriminated against in Massachusetts because of their gender identity," Baker said after signing the bill Friday. "This compromise legislation extends additional protections to the commonwealth's transgender community, and includes language to address the public safety concerns expressed by some by requiring the attorney general to issue regulations to protect against people abusing the law." Massachusetts State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who originally introduced the bill on the Senate floor, addressed the significance of the legislation's timing as part of the national debate. "In light of recent anti-LGBT events in the public sphere in our country, it was and is crucial that Massachusetts stand on the right side of history in providing public accommodations protections for our transgender residents. Public accommodations are fundamental to equal rights in America," Chang-Diaz said. State Senate President Stan Rosenberg praised passage of the bill, saying on Twitter that it was "a great day for the LGBT community, for Massachusetts, and for America!" Opponents such as the Massachusetts Family Institute argue that the bill fails to protect women and children from predators and violates fundamental rights of privacy. The group said Baker "gave in to a radical and aggressive agenda." "What we have today is the sacrifice of common sense and the abdication of responsibility by both houses of the legislature and now the governor," the Institute said in a press release.The original Senate measure allowed people who identify with a different gender than their sex at birth to use restrooms and locker rooms in public spaces -- such as shopping malls and movie theaters -- that match their gender identity. That version was reconciled with the House version earlier this week, including in the final legislation a provision to develop guidelines for addressing "any person whose assertion of a gender identity is for an improper purpose."The law will be fully implemented by October 1. Baker, a Republican who supports same-sex marriage, ignited public outrage in April when he appeared at an LGBT event and didn't signal whether he'd sign the bill, saying instead that he'd "talk to all parties involved" once the bill reached his desk. One audience member at the event shouted, "Not good enough!" and others shouted unanimously, "Sign the bill! Sign the bill!"

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