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A nice afternoon at the statehouse

Today was lobby day at the Massachusetts State House for the Transgender Equality Bill: "An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes" that adds the category "gender identity or expression" to our hate crime laws as well as to the employment, housing, credit, public accommodations, and public education non-discrimination laws.

It looks very likely that it will pass this year so that Massachusetts will join 13 other states who have similar laws. A majority of the legislators are listed as sponsors but there are many potential slips between the cup and the lip with legislatures. The Mass Transgender Political Coalition organized this session. It commenced with a rally and speeches by lots of people - some of which I missed because I was late from another meeting - and then there was the opportunity to talk to legislators and other people.

I first went to talk to Bruce Tarr, the Republican senator from Gloucester. He was busy but I talked to Dan his legislative aid. Dan says that although Tarr agrees with most of the law he is concerned about the "bathroom" issue. That is the standard red herring that opposers bring up. They feign concern with sexual assault by people of the "wrong" sex in bathrooms. Not that this law changes that situation at all. I think that Dan is on our side with this. I brought up the issue that there are a significant percentage of people with ambiguous sexual characteristics but they were assigned with M or F at birth and they are really harmed by the lack of protection - often forever no matter what medical actions they take. I pointed out that sexual assault sadly happens most frequently by friends, family members, or acquaintances and this law doesn't change one iota of that situation. And people who want to assault people of the opposite sex in bathrooms can always wear a disguise anyway so this law doesn't really change that situation. It is unreasonable that these individuals should be discriminated against as happens. There is nothing in this law that requires mixed sex bathrooms which is what some of the opponents say. Later when I talked to Gunner Scott, the MTPC executive director about what to say to people like this he essentially said the same things that I brought up.

I talked to the aide for Ann-Margaret Ferrante's, the Gloucester state rep. She affirmed that Ferrante will vote for the bill (she is one of the many sponsors) and we talked a bit about some of the hot Gloucester issues which are Fishing quotas and their administration, and the complete snafu about the charter school proposal.
I will send email to Tarr and Ferrante.

I didn't bother talking to my Cambridge reps (I have no senator since my ex-senator is in prison) with the special election to replace a few months away. The Cambridge reps are all OK and I confirmed this with Carl Sciortino, the (cute, gay) rep from Somerville who is the chief sponsor of the legislation; we had nice chat about various issues. Actually I think the western senator is not OK.

I still don't know what the GLBT Commission can do to help, but I intend upon checking into this before next week's meeting.

I also talked to Sonja Darai, a Somerville official in the Health Department who handles GLBT issues (I met her last year) and got some good ideas for collaboration and funding. Somerville has just hired a GLBT liaison, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan - I met her and will set up a meeting with her. Maybe the fact that Somerville has a liaison will be helpful in getting Cambridge to hire someone (we are currently working on that and I am awaiting an appointment with the City Manager to discuss this matter).

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