Some Massachusetts Trans Rights History
Founded in 2001 as an all-volunteer organization, MTPC followed in the footsteps of It’s Time Massachusetts, a transgender political organization that folded after the passing of its founder, Penni Ashe.
In 2002, MTPC succeeded in obtaining the passage of an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression in Boston. It did the same for Northampton in 2005.
In 2004, MTPC began operating as a program of fiscal sponsor Boston Alliance of GLBT Youth (BAGLY), a 501c3.
In 2006, MTPC began building a broad coalition for transgender equal rights, and in 2007 led the coalition as sponsors of the first statewide transgender equal rights legislation.
In 2008, MTPC hired its first full time staff person, Executive Director (and a founding MTPC member) Gunner Scott.
In 2011, the Transgender Equal Rights Coalition succeed in obtaining passage of statewide non-discrimination and hate crimes protections, with the exception of public accommodations.
In 2016, Freedom Massachusetts made significant progress in passing statewide non-discrimination and hate crimes protections in public accommodations.
In 2018, the efforts of Freedom Massachusetts helped MA defend the law that protects transgender people in public accommodations.
Transgender Equal Rights Legislation in Massachusetts
In 1997, the City of Cambridge passed an amendment to the city’s Human Rights Ordinance, defining gender as “the actual or perceived appearance, expression or identity of a person with respect to masculinity and femininity” and adding it as one more basis upon which discrimination is prohibited. Coverage includes public accommodations.
In 2002 Boston passed “An Ordinance Regarding Discrimination Based on Gender Identity or Expression” adding “gender identity or expression” to the city’s non-discrimination statutes. Coverage includes public accommodations. Northampton followed suit in 2005.
In 2007, “An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes” was first introduced. This legislation was to add Massachusetts to the list of states that have provided equal opportunity to people of all genders and amend existing hate crimes laws to include transgender people was introduced by Representative Carl Sciortino and Representative Byron Rushing. The bill was sent to the Judiciary Committee, which held a hearing on it in March 2008. Although testimony in support of the legislation was overwhelming, ultimately the committee sent the bill to study, where it stayed until the end of the 2007-2008 legislative session.
In 2009, the legislation, “An Act Relative to Gender Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes,” was re-introduced into both the House (H.1728) and Senate (S.1687), and again referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. A hearing was held on July 14, 2009. In March 2010, the Judiciary committee was granted an extension, until May 7, to consider the bill. In late April, 2010, an amendment (#274) to the House budget bill was submitted, attaching this legislation to the budget bill, but this method of passage was not acted upon. The 2009/10 legislative session ended without action on this legislation.
In 2011, the bill was under a new title, “An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights.” The content of the bill was the same as the past bills filed in 2007 and 2009. Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz joined Sen. Ben Downing as lead senatorial sponsors. House lead sponsors remained Rep. Carl Sciortino and Rep. Byron Rushing.
“An Act Relative to Gender Identity” passed the House and Senate in November of 2011 and was immediately signed into law on November 23, 2011 by Governor Deval Patrick, then a ceremonial signing was held on January 19, 2012.
An Act Relative to Gender Identity
On July 1, 2012, the Transgender Equal Rights Law went into effect. Massachusetts is the sixteenth state to add nondiscrimination laws for gender identity in the areas of employment, housing, K-12 public education, and credit. Additionally, Massachusetts hate crimes laws were also updated to include gender identity. This law is known as An Act Relative to Gender Identity. Find out more about this law.
This 2011 legislation did not extend protections in public accommodations for gender identity. Therefore, legislation will need to be passed to amend this section of the non-discrimination laws. MTPC, along with our Trans Equal Rights Coalition, filed legislation and launched a campaign for public accommodations protection in 2013, and re-filed legislation in 2015.
MTPC expresses our deepest gratitude to our community members, who have spent countless hours educating their legislators and the general public about the issues transgender people face and we look forward to working with all of our community members and allies in continuing to move Massachusetts forward with positive legislation, polices, and practices.
MTPC thanks all of the members of the Transgender Equal Rights Coalition including MassEquality, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), National Association of Social Workers (NASW), ACLU of Massachusetts, MassNOW, Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, Jobs with Justice, Keshet, and Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality for their tireless work on behalf of transgender equal rights.
Nationwide, 17 states, Washington D.C., and over 185 counties and cities have passed legislation to ban this discrimination in their communities — including Boston, Cambridge, Northampton, and Amherst, and now Massachusetts in the areas of employment, housing, credit/lending, and public education.
What We Learned in Advocating for Transgender Equal Rights from 2007 to 2011
A majority of Massachusetts’ residents support the protection of rights for transgender people, as demonstrated by this poll taken in November of 2009.
The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition applauds the many policy makers who supported “An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights” from 2007 to 2011 including:
- Governor Deval Patrick
- State Attorney General Martha Coakley
- Congressman Barney Frank
- Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral
- Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conely
- Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino
- Boston City Council
- Cambridge City Council
- Cambridge Police Department
- Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins
- The House and Senate members that voted in favor of An Act Relative to Gender Identity