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Transgender Rights for Massachusetts bill signed

Today I went to the statehouse along with a lot of other people to witness the signing of the Transgender Rights bill. This bill gives protection to transgender people in housing, employment, credit, and insurance. It also expands the definition of Hate Crimes to include crimes against transgender people.

Getting this done has been a long trip. Thanks to Rep Carl Sciortino for initiating it a few too many years ago (first filed in 2007) and Gunner Scott, Executive Director of the Mass Transgender Political Coalition, for all his work. I went to three lobby days for this legislation. At those days after a bit of training I went to talk to several of the Cambridge and Gloucester legislators and their aids most of whom were on board and also encouraged them to talk to other legislators. I also had various opportunities during the past several years to talk to other legislators.

Gunner Scott

Governor Deval Patrick                         Carl Sciortino                         Bryon Rushing

There were short speeches by many people: Governor Deval Patrick, House Speaker DeLeo, Rep Sonia Diaz Chang, Byron Rushing, Senate Majority Whip Ben Downing, Atty General Martha Coakley, State Auditor Suzanne Bump, Carl Sciortino, Gunner Scott, and some others. They all played important roles in getting this legislation to the floor and passed. Most of them made a special point to thanked all the people in the audience and those who weren't there for all their lobbying, story telling, and other things that helped make this a reality. The Attorney General emphasized that she would enforce it. Earlier in 2011 the governor signed an executive order to protect a good portion of state employees and gave credit to some other department heads whose domains weren't covered to do the same; this bill is much broader.

Several speakers emphasized how important it was to talk to people about this topic because there is so much misunderstanding. Transgender people telling their stories is a big help. A lot of education is needed.

One of my auxiliary arguments is that this protection is economically advantageous to the state since when people get fired from their jobs or kicked out of housing it ends up costing the state for providing various forms of financial assistance and housing assistance.

It is sad that it took so long, Massachusetts, the first state to allow same-sex marriage is the 16th to have this kind of protection, but the protection in this law is quite broad. The bill did not include public accommodations protection - it was removed to avoid some of the haters' influence on on-the-fence legislators. So there is more to do, but this was a big step and will help many people.

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Gay rights are indeed slow in coming.

All I can say is, it's about bloody time!

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