When does the Transgender Equal Rights Bill take effect?
After Gov. Deval Patrick signs the bill into law, it will be effective as of July 1, 2012.
Exactly what protections will transgender people have under this law?
It outlaws discrimination based on gender identity in the areas of employment, housing, credit, lending, and education. This means you cannot be fired or denied a job because you are transgender; a landlord cannot refuse to rent an apartment to you because you are transgender; a bank cannot deny you credit or a loan because you are transgender; you cannot be denied a mortgage because you are transgender; and you cannot be denied access to K-12 public educational facilities, programs or services because you are transgender.
It also adds protections based on gender identity to Massachusetts’ hate crimes law. That means that people convicted of anti-transgender hate crimes will face added criminal penalties and increased fines.
What are public accommodations, and why aren’t they included in the bill’s protections?
The term "public accommodations" refers to any facility -- stores, restaurants, movie theatres, malls, public restrooms, etc. -- that opens itself up to the public for the purpose of providing goods or services. Though they were included in the original version of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill, members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary stripped the bill of the public accommodations provisions before moving the bill out of that committee. Since there is no formal report from the committee, it is unwise and impossible to say what motivated each of the members of the committee to take that step. Advocates of the bill have heard that the public accommodations were removed primarily because of unfounded fears stoked by our opponents that including them would somehow make women and children unsafe in public restrooms and a misunderstanding that the public accommodations provision somehow equated to protections for transgender people in bathrooms and locker rooms.
What does this mean for the use of public bathrooms/locker rooms by transgender people?
Massachusetts law, as amended by the recent Transgender Equal Rights Bill, is silent as to which public bathrooms/locker rooms transgender people should use. However, existing law does prohibit gender-based discrimination against anyone accessing public accommodations. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) has definitively ruled that existing discrimination laws protect transgender people though there have been no specific Massachusetts rulings about what that means in terms of access to public bathrooms/locker rooms. If you have questions or concerns about your legal rights regarding access to restrooms, locker rooms, or any other public accommodation please call GLAD’s Legal InfoLine, 1-800-455-4523, Monday - Friday, 1:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. You can also email questions at http://www.glad.org/rights/infoline-contact#infoline-form.
Will my health insurance provider cover gender reassignment surgery or other transition-related health care under this law?
The law does not expressly address health insurance benefits. Insurance is controlled by state and federal law depending on the nature of the benefit and whether it is provided by a private or public employer. Anyone with questions about what their particular plan must provide should consult an attorney.
Why isn’t the phrase "gender expression" included in the language of the bill?
The Joint Committee on the Judiciary changed the term that got added into existing laws from "gender identity and expression" to "gender identity." However, the definition of the term "gender identity" in the version of the bill that will be adopted into law clearly includes protections for gender-based expression as well as gender identity. The definition of gender identity as adopted is "any person’s gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not that identity, appearance, or behavior differs from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth," -- the key words in the definition for gender-based expression being "gender-related...appearance, or behavior." This language is comparable to the definition of gender identity or expression included in the 15 other jurisdictions to have adopted similar laws.
Does the bill require that someone provide proof of having a medical condition or consistent presentation in order to be protected under it?
No, as explained above, the law protects people based on their gender identity as well as on their gender-related appearance and behavior. The definition of gender identity provides that a person’s gender identity must be sincerely held and not being asserted for any improper purposes. The definition also includes medical evidence and consistent presentation as two examples of ways to show that a person’s gender identity is sincerely held. However, the law also makes clear that there are other ways to show that a person’s gender identity is sincerely held and that there can be no requirement of someone having medical evidence to prove it. The definition is broad and inclusive and the bill, as passed, did not cut back on the intended scope of the definition as introduced.
Information courtesy of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).