The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) is hosting a Legislative Action Day at the State House January 17 from 11 am to 1 pm. Constituents will gather to educate their legislators about the necessity of protecting transgender people’s access to public accommodations through the passage of An Act Relative to Equal Access in Hospitals, Public Transportation, Nursing Homes, Supermarkets, Retail Establishments, and all other places open to the public.
The Equal Access Bill would add “gender identity” to existing Massachusetts civil rights law for public accommodations, which currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex and marital status. Nationwide, 15 states, the District of Columbia and 187 cities and counties (including Boston, Cambridge, Amherst and Northampton) have passed non-discrimination laws or ordinances protecting people on this basis.
Public accommodations include any establishment, public or private, that is open to the general public and provides, or endeavors to provide, some type of goods and/or services to the general public. Examples of accommodations are banks, gas stations, beauty salons, funeral parlors and employment agencies; offices of professionals such as doctors, attorneys, dentists, accountants, travel agents and insurance agents; court rooms, lobbies, polling places and government agencies; hotels, restaurants and bars; shopping centers; theaters, concert halls, sports arenas and convention centers; museums, libraries and galleries; parks, zoos, amusement parks and beaches; public transit and airports; and public streets and sidewalks.
MTPC’s Executive Director, Gunner Scott, said, “Public accommodations protections would make explicit the Commonwealth’s commitment to providing people of all gender identities equal protection under the law, and guarantee transgender youth, adults, and families 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.”
According to a recent transgender discrimination survey, 58% of Massachusetts respondents experienced verbal harassment or mistreatment in public accommodations such as hotels, restaurants, buses, airports and government agencies because they are transgender; 22% of transgender adults were denied equal treatment by a government agency or official; and 24% of transgender adults who interacted with police experienced harassment by officers.
“I applaud the Massachusetts legislature and Governor Deval Patrick for the 2011 passage of An Act Relative to Gender Identity, which adds gender identity non-discrimination protections in the areas of education, employment, housing and credit/lending. The Equal Access Bill fills in that missing piece of public accommodations, which are all the places between home, work or school. This is necessary for full equality all transgender youth, adults, and families in Massachusetts,” said Nancy Nangeroni, chair of MTPC’s board.