For the first time in American history, Social Liberals outnumber conservatives. Our country is fast changing, and as John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life”. Unfortunately, America is changing too much. We are beginning to lose our core values, all so we can say we support change. Americans should take a step back, and fully assess the situation before making uninformed decisions on what we support.
Massachusetts currently has a new bill (HB 1577) which will be reviewed again in January of 2016. HB 1577 is “An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination”. In 2011, the Massachusetts House and Senate passed “An Act Relative to Gender Identity”, which banned discrimination against transgender individuals in housing, employment, lending, and public education. It was a groundbreaking bill, making the commonwealth one of eighteen states to have legal protections for the transgender community.
Now members of Boston Based Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) and supporters of the LGBT community are pushing for more legislation. Supporters of the Bill feel it is necessary because it would “Protect people in the Transgender community in public accommodations”. On the Opposing Side, the Republicans feel there is “Potential for Abuse” and would “Pose a Privacy Set to Others”. HB 1577 will not be passed unless the Democrats can somehow gain the Republicans Support. In order to override a veto from Governor Baker (R), the Massachusetts Senate and the Massachusetts House of Representatives would have to have bipartisan support.
Democrats Argument for HB 1577
GLAD has stated that this Bill would finish the job on the 2011 legislation. Democrats such as Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey have called for support of this Bill. GLAD has also made it known that passing this Bill would be vital to transgender people being able to live full, productive lives as themselves. Without it, they argue that it could compromise the individual’s physical and mental health.
Current Massachusetts laws ban discrimination in public accommodations based on “age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, religion, and marital status.” HB 1577 would add gender identity to this list of personal characteristics, expanding protection to both transgender individuals and people who do not identify with a specific gender.
In 2013, Fenway Health, a LGBT healthcare, research and advocacy organization founded by Northeastern University students and headquartered in Boston conducted a survey within the Massachusetts transgender community to assess how much discrimination transgender people had faced since the 2011 Bill. Out of 452 people surveyed, 65% disclosed that they had faced some sort of discrimination in public since 2011. Mason J. Dunn, President of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, says that there is “A large category of public spaces unprotected from discrimination.”
Republicans Argument Against HB 1577
Governor Charles Baker has been hesitant on HB 1577, and has voiced the same concerns as all Republicans. The Republicans support the 2011 Bill, but don’t feel that additional legislation is required. HB 1577 could pose a security threat to others. The Massachusetts Family Institute feels that gender identity is too “loosely defined”. They feel this can compromise the security of non transgender people.
Passing this Bill would also be passing the potential for lots of abuse when it comes to women and children in the Republicans eyes. They argue that the bill would also allow sexual predators to claim “confusion” about their gender in order to gain unquestioned access to private areas.
Since the law does not require a person to have a documented problem with gender confusion, there is no way to distinguish between those people that this bill is designed to help and the people who would abuse its existence to fulfill any number of deviant desires. The legislation also opens up businesses and law enforcement officials to civil and even criminal penalties for “discriminating” on the basis of gender identity.
In Boston, which has a city-wide ordinance, police officers were sued and their department fined $20,000 after they responded to a complaint from a women’s shelter by removing a man from the women’s bathroom at that facility. It is also unclear why this bill is needed, since the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), the state agency entrusted with addressing discrimination claims, is already able to handle cases brought by transgendered individuals in public accommodations under existing law. In addition, female athletes are concerned that this law would force single-sex school sports teams to accept student athletes of any gender, creating chaotic locker room situations and dangerous on-field environments.
The language of the bill also specifically targets women’s-only fitness centers, shelters, and other single-sex facilities.
Personally, I find HB 1577 totally unnecessary, and I think anyone who cares about the well being of Massachusetts’s citizens would have the discernment to vote against this bill. Any sexual predator can claim “confusion” over their gender identity and immediately get unquestioned access into strictly women’s areas. This is not a matter of discrimination; it is a matter of protecting the public.
Passing this Bill would be totally irresponsible. Transgender people have gained all the rights necessary to living a prosperous life thanks to “An Act Relative to Gender Identity”. HB 1577 places a burden on families, business owners, and law enforcement. The MCAD stated as early as 2001 that “We hold that “sex” discrimination, as prohibited by chapter 151B, includes a prohibition against discrimination against transsexual individuals.” This completely disproves the point made by Attorney General Healey that “Massachusetts law does not adequately protect transgender people.” We cannot sacrifice security. I feel America must evolve, but as a country, we must evolve while still embracing our core values.