BOSTON—The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women (Mass. NOW) and fifteen other women’s, children’s, and sexual assault organizations have issued a letter of support for the Transgender Equal Rights Bill (H502 / S764).
This legislation would add “gender identity and expression” to existing Massachusetts nondiscrimination laws and amend the Commonwealth’s hate crimes laws to include offenses regarding gender identity and expression. Bethany Withers, Policy and Programs Manager for Mass. NOW, says, “Fifteen states and 136 counties—including Boston—have passed similar legislation. It is time for Massachusetts to get on board and prohibit discrimination against the transgender community across the Commonwealth.”
The sixteen signatories of the letter reject claims that the legislation would impair the safety of women and children by allowing imposters to enter public restrooms. To the contrary, the letter makes clear, “Focusing on an unfounded fear about safety in connection with this legislation not only detracts from the very real violence that women and children face, but it also ignores the serious threats to personal safety that many transgender and gender non-conforming people in the Commonwealth experience.”
Similarly, Nancy Allen Scannell, Director of Policy and Planning at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC), does not see the Transgender Equal Rights Bill as a threat to children. On the contrary, Allen Scannell says, “No child has ever been harmed by fair and equal treatment. MSPCC supports this bill because it is discrimination that has a detrimental impact on the well- being of children and families. As an employer, we also understand the negative impact of discrimination in the workplace and have voluntarily added gender identity and expression to our Equal Opportunity and Harassment Prevention policies.”
Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), Gunner Scott, states “The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 58% of transgender women and men in Massachusetts were verbally harassed, 18% had been physically assaulted and 7% were sexually assaulted in a place of public accommodation such as a hotel, restaurant, public transit, or government agency because of their gender identity or expression. These experiences are why this legislation is needed now and these organizations understand this.”
The organizations that signed the letter of support include American Association of University Women – Massachusetts, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Boston Women’s Commission, Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women, Jane Doe Inc., Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, National Association of Social Workers – MA Chapter, REACH, Rosie’s Place, Somerville Commission for Women, The Home for Little Wanderers, The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women, Victim Rights Law Center, Women’s Bar Association, and Women’s Lunch Place.
The hearing for the Transgender Equal Rights Bill will take place before the Joint Committee of the Judiciary on Wednesday, June 8, at 1:00 p.m. in the Gardner Auditorium of the State House.