By Anna Jaffray
On Friday January 20th, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts publicly signed a ceremonial copy of H.3810, “An Act Relative To Gender Identity.” The official law was passed in November 2011 and protects transgender individuals from discrimination in housing, education, employment and credit. The new law also provides new civil rights and protections from hate crimes. Massachusetts is now one of fifteen states and 140 cities and counties to pass such a law.
With approximately 33,000 transgender residents in the state of Massachusetts, this legislation provides important legal recourse for those who are discriminated against based on their identity. According to a study done by the Williams Institute of UCLA in 2011, that due to transgender bias, 20% had lost their jobs, 39% percent were not hired for positions they applied for and 17% were denied promotions. According to these numbers, the “Gender Identity Act” will greatly affect those peoples’ ability to engage in legal recourse against such discrimination.
Although transgender advocates everywhere rejoiced at the passing of the new law, many remained critical of its lack of address of public accommodations protections. In a statement from the governor’s office, Governor Patrick admits that, “There is more work to do. And let me just say personally, I don’t understand all of the issues that transgender people have and are worried about, but I want to.”
Gunner Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, which has been operating since 2002, said in a statement, “Governor Patrick has been a vocal supporter of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill since the bill was first filed in 2007. We applaud the Governor because he has been a staunch advocate in recognizing the transgender community and the public signing ceremony last week was another example of his leadership in bringing visibility to a community that has been invisible for so long.”