Back in 2011 Massachusetts passed An Act Relative to Transgender Equality (link goes to the diary I wrote at the time) to become the 16th state to offer us protections. But the right to equality in the area of public accommodations was scratched out of the proposed bill. We were promised, however, that the state would revisit that.
Many of us probably thought at the time that meant they might improve it. Not so fast.
Recently the Massachusetts Department of Education issued a document addressing the creation of safe, supportive environments for transgender students.
The point of the Department's document was to address the following portion of the Act:
No person shall be excluded from or discriminated against in admission to a public school of any town, or in obtaining the advantages, privileges and courses of study of such public school on account of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.The department's document did not sit well with some of the legislators.
They were appalled that it included the fallowing:
Each situation needs to be reviewed and addressed based on the particular circumstances of the student and the school facilities. In all cases, the principal should be clear with the student (and parent) that the student may access the restroom, locker room, and changing facility that corresponds to the student’s gender identity.The screams were inevitable.
Oh the horrors. Transpeople use restrooms.
Rep. James Lyons (R-Andover) has proposed an amendment to the act in the hopes of rescinding the department's advisory. Lyons' amendment sought to establish a person's "anatomical sex" rather than "gender identity" as the determining factor in use of sex-segregated facilities.
House Judiciary Chairman Eugene O'Flaherty tacked on an amendment to the amendment. Flaherty's amendment requires a determination by administration officials that Lyon's amendment would not cause discrimination or safety issues.
Anyone with half a brain would know that Lyon's amendment is all about discrimination and would eliminate the safety of transgender people to use public washrooms. The question, of course, if someone with greater than half a brain will be in a position to make that official determination.
O'Flaherty's amendment passed 112-44.
Respectfully, we’ve had the debate. What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of some guidelines? [I]ndividual districts have discretion.
--Rep. Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown
It’s an important conversation to have, because we are all committed to making sure that all students are safe.Actually Carl. You should turn your brain on. Rep. Lyons and his ilk are not at all interested in the safety of transgender students.
--Rep. Carl Sciortino (D-Medford)
Republicans raised concerns about training for educators, a lack of research into how prevalent the issue is, and the possibility of students being made uncomfortable by a transgender person of the opposite anatomical sex and perhaps a different age group changing in front of them.Rep. Keiko Orrall (R-Lakeville) said O'Flaherty has assured them in 2011 that the transgender rights bill was not a bathroom bill but that the commissioner's advisory had made it so.
The amended amendment was passed by a voice vote.
Meanwhile the Mass. Legislature has what is being called the Equal Access Bill to consider. The bill is S 643: An Act relative to equal access in hospitals, public transportation, nursing homes, supermarkets, retail establishments, and all other places open to the public. It is awaiting action in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary and has been since January.
Public accommodations protections make explicit the commonwealth’s commitment to providing people of diverse gender identities and expressions equal protection under the law, and guarantee transgender and gender non-conforming people the opportunity to participate in and contribute to their communities and to the local economy. This bill is about fairness and all residents having the same access to public places.Clearly…