#TransBillMA: What’s Next?

Just one week ago today, we watched in awe as the Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the trans nondiscrimination legislation: 116 in favor, 36 opposed – a super majority! This followed after winning a super majority of votes in the Senate just a few weeks before, and after the Governor came out in support of the legislation the night before. The momentum for trans rights in undeniable.

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MTPC ED Mason Dunn after the House vote. Photo courtesy of Freedom Massachusetts.

Only minutes after the vote, the emails, phone calls, and text messages started to pour in, asking the same question: what’s next? First, it’s important to know this – we’re not finished yet. There is still work that need to be done to make sure this legislation becomes law. Here are some quick, and hopefully helpful answers to your questions:

What is the next step?

There are two versions of the bill in play at the moment: the Senate bill, which added provisions about the effective date, and the House bill, which contains added language about the implementation of guidelines, as well as a differing effective date.

The next big step will be to resolve and reconcile the differences between these two bills. This will likely happen through a conference committee. A conference committee is a temporary group made up of six legislators, three Representatives and three Senators (chosen by the leadership of both chambers), who iron out the differences between the two bills, and negotiate a final version together.

So, the next step is for the leadership to assign legislators to a conference committee, and then schedule a meeting of that committee. We hope to see that happen in the next few weeks.

When will a final version of the bill pass?

This of course depends on when the conference committee is named and meets, but we anticipate that will be another week to negotiate and draft a final bill. That final version will need to pass through both the House and Senate.

This final version must pass before the end of the legislative session, on July 31st, 2016. So in order for this to pass, it must happen in the next two months.

When will the Governor sign the final bill?

After the final version of the bill passes through the House and Senate, the Governor has ten days to either sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law without his signature. We anticipate the Governor will sign the bill, based on his statements of support before the House vote.

What should we do now?

First, it’s important to thank the 33 Senators and 116 Representatives who voted in favor of the bill. We wouldn’t be here without them, so please take an opportunity to email, write, or call the legislators who have supported this bill. Additionally, please send a special thank you to our lead sponsors, Senator Sonia Chang Diaz, and Representatives Byron Rushing and Denise Provost. We also want to thank the Senate President, Stan Rosenberg, Speaker of the House, Robert DeLeo, and the Judiciary Chairmen, Senator William Brownsberger and Representative John Fernandes.
It’s important to keep talking to our friends, community members, allies, and businesses about the importance of this legislation. We haven’t finished yet, and we need to continue to raise awareness for trans rights across Massachusetts.

Lastly, please remember that this legislation, even when it passes, is not the end of the work. There is so much that remains to be done for the implementation of the law, to ensure that public spaces are safe, and free from discrimination. We also have other important areas of advocacy ahead, including health care advocacy, economic justice, and so much more.

We’ve come so far with this legislation, and it couldn’t have happened without you. So thank you for your support, and hard work throughout this campaign. Let’s keep it up, until we see lived equality for all people in the Commonwealth!

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Repost: What to do when your own face hates you

The following is an excerpt of blog post from MTPC’s Steering Committee Chair, Maxwell Ng. Follow the link below for the full post. 

So yesterday I watched the Mass House of Representatives debate and ultimately pass HB 1577, a bill we affectionately call the Trans Equal Access Bill. I have worked on this bill for over 6 years, and I have spoken about it at length before. This bill would protect transgender people from discrimination in all public accommodations, a legal term for spaces like libraries, restaurants, hospitals and parks. In short, every place that isn’t your home, workplace or school.

Those spaces also sometimes include locker rooms, and often times include bathrooms, so of course it has been derided as “The Bathroom Bill” by the opposition. They argue that predators posing as transgender women would use this bill as a cover to prey on women in bathrooms. They forget that criminal activity perpetrated by anyone in a bathroom is already a crime. But the root of their fear is the passive crimes: peeping or upskirting, and ultimately the most dreadful, exposure of male anatomy in a women’s bathroom.

Click here to read the rest of the post. 

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#TransBillMA passed in the House AND Senate!

Below are MTPC’s public remarks on the passing of the Equal Access Bill in the Massachusetts House of Representatives by a wide (veto-proof!) margin on June 1, 2016. The bill has already passed in the Senate. 

My name is Mason Dunn. I am a transgender man, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, and co-chair of Freedom Massachusetts.

Today’s victory is a long-awaited and important affirmation from our lawmakers that transgender people are valued and welcome in our Commonwealth. Not only that, but today’s vote is an inspirational way to start June, National LGBTQ Pride Month. Happy Pride!

The protections that have passed today have been pending on Beacon Hill for nearly ten years. During that time, hundreds of transgender people have bravely come forward to tell their stories and personal experiences with discrimination. I am humbled by the time and effort the transgender community and our allies have put in to get us here today. You have shown up, time and time again, to tell your stories and to be an integral part of this process. Lawmakers heard us, and they see transgender people for who we truly are — human beings, worthy of respect and deserving of basic human rights.

We are so grateful to our tireless advocates in the House: Speaker DeLeo; Chairman Fernandes; and Representative Rushing and Representative Provost, the bill’s lead sponsors. They have shown persistent and determined leadership, without which we would not be here today. We are thankful to them for their unwavering commitment to moving this bill forward and working diligently over the past months to be sure legislators did the right thing.

Today is a triumph for Massachusetts’s reputation as a leader on equality and as a beacon of freedom for everyone. We look forward to seeing this bill arrive at Governor Baker’s desk, and we eagerly await his signature. It’s time for equality for everyone in Massachusetts.

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Action Alert! #TransBillMA

We are almost there!  Two weeks ago, the Senate passed Senate Bill 735, An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination, with a sound 33-4 vote.  Next Wednesday, June 1st, the House of Representatives will vote on House Bill 4253 to protect transgender people in public spaces.

 

Trans folks need equal rights now!  With the waves of anti-transgender legislation across the country, it’s crucial that we take a stand here in Massachusetts.  We have the chance to show that everyone is welcome in the Bay State, especially transgender folks.  Let’s make sure our legislators keep hearing from supporters of trans rights over the next week!

 

Tonight, tomorrow night, and next Tuesday night from 6-9 pm EST, we will be hosting remote phone banks, which you can participate in from the comfort of your own home, to call voters in key areas around the state ask them to leave a message of support for their representative.  This is one of the most effective things we can do to ensure that the voices of our supporters are heard in the State House before the vote next Wednesday.  All you need is a phone and a computer or tablet connected to the internet! To get all the details, sign up here

 

Can’t commit to a phone bank? Make sure YOUR voice is heard.  

Call your representative and ask them to vote in favor of HB 4253, email your representative, or write them a letter.  Make sure they know that passing HB 4253 will make Massachusetts a safer place for you and the ones you love.

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More on the Boston Spirit Action

This post was written by two MTPC interns who attended last week’s Boston Spirit event and wanted to share their experiences.

On Wednesday, March 13th, Boston Spirit Magazine held its ninth annual LBGT executive networking night. Organizer David Zimmerman, in charge of the event, invited Governor Charlie Baker to be honored for his “support of the LGBT community” as well as to serve as keynote speaker for the event. Although Baker may have supported same-sex marriage, his tacit opposition to the transgender public accommodations bill has alienated many local LGBT people. Activists in the trans community, supported by MTPC, attended the event to protest Spirit’s choice and to hear Baker address their concerns about the bill.

Before Baker began speaking, the general attitude of the crowd was cautiously hopeful – the governor has disappointed us before, but surely while being honored at an LGBT event and with the backlash from North Carolina and Mississippi looming, he would at least give us something. Instead, we got nothing more than the same refusal to commit that Baker has offered us for months.

Baker spent most of his speech, which ran to around eighteen minutes before abruptly cutting off, congratulating himself on his achievements in MBTA reform and opioid abuse legislation. Even though he was addressing a crowd of mostly LGBT people at a networking event specifically focused on LGBT-friendly businesses, Baker largely avoided mentioning any LGBT issues until halfway through his speech. Once finally reaching the topic of same-sex marriage, he promptly mispronounced the acronym “LGBT” several times.

For those of us participating in the action, the two authors of this post included, this lack of substance was incredibly frustrating. A little over halfway through Baker’s speech, a member of the audience called out to the governor, imploring him to “look around” and address “the issue” – that issue being the many audience members silently holding signs which bore slogans like “public spaces = our spaces” and “Trans Rights Now” in support of HB 1577. Baker’s response was a condescending, “We’ll get to that.” He then continued his self-congratulatory lecture on recent governmental achievements.

Finally deigning to talk about the public accommodations bill, Baker announced that he would “talk to all the parties involved” if the bill crossed his desk, continuing to equivocate on the importance of transgender rights. By refusing to give us a direct answer about whether or not he would sign a bill protecting trans people from discrimination, Baker showed us that he values some parts of the LGBT community far more than others.

The next few minutes of the speech emphasized his lack of commitment, so trans activists and community members in the crowd called out to the governor, asking him to “sign the bill” and pointing out that he has ignored attempts by trans community members to communicate their pressing concerns to him in the past. In the face of the community’s understandable frustrations, Baker abruptly ended his speech and walked offstage, declining to speak with audience members afterward as he had originally agreed to do.

David Zimmerman took the stage following the governor’s sudden departure amid protesters’ chants. After several failed attempts to calm the crowd, Zimmerman became visibly angry and said that he hoped the trans activists present would “respect the rest” of the LGBT community for whom the night had been organized.

Most of the news coverage of the event and our protest in the following days was positive. Some, like Shirley Leung’s editorial in the Boston Globe, however, implied that trans activists were taking up too much space at the event and that our expressions of justified anger were unreasonably disruptive and disrespectful. Our presence and interactions with the governor were described as “heckling” and even trans-friendly news outlets inaccurately stated that Baker was “booed off the stage” after easily-offended protesters “lost it.” This kind of language perpetuates the harmful narrative that trans folks are just looking for a fight when we ask that people respect our desire to live without discrimination.

When our elected officials refuse to listen to the people they ostensibly represent, community organizing becomes even more important. Even as Baker refuses to lead, we congratulate the trans community members who planned last Wednesday’s protest action and made their voices heard.

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