Massachusetts officially became the 16th state to treat transgender citizens as a protected class today as Governor Deval Patrick hosted a ceremonial signing of the groundbreaking rights bill.
As Colorlines is reporting, the law legally protects transgender individuals from discrimination in housing, education, employment and credit, in addition to providing additional civil rights and protections from hate crimes.
"I sign this bill as a matter of conscience; people should be able to come before their government as equals," Patrick is quoted as having said as he signed "An Act Relative to Gender Identity" into law. Though Patrick had actually signed the bill in his office in late November, Thursday's event was a ceremonial start-of-the-year one that drew an overflowing crowd from the local transgender community, local network WWLP is reporting.
"This law is about affirming rights," Gunner Scott, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), is quoted by Bay Windows as saying. "This law is for people who think they can deny us those rights... This piece of paper is not magic, but for many of us it is the result of hard work that will change our lives."
Still, many transgender rights activists found fault with the new legislation, drawing attention to its lack of public accommodation protections. Last fall's removal of such a protection, which would have required all "sex-segregated facilities" such as rest rooms or locker rooms to grant admission to people based on gender identity was heavily criticized by many who considered it a key component.
“Just because it’s such a basic right for people and the fact that it’s not protected is kind of atrocious,” said Kaylin MacNeil of Holyoke.
According to the Associated Press, an estimated 33,000 transgender citizens reside in Massachusetts.