GLAD submitted a letter to the Massachusetts Public Access to Court Records Committee expressing concerns about a proposed new rule, Trial Court Rule XIV, regarding expanded internet access to criminal case records.
The letter expresses concern that expanding internet access to records in criminal cases conflicts both with laws on the sealing of records, as well as with the spirit of Massachusetts' reformed CORI laws - and that such broad access is likely to hurt people who need jobs the most.
The letter, authored by Legal Director Gary Buseck, goes on to say:
"We are also aware of how the criminal justice system negatively and wrongly impacted gay men for many years. Now, and historically, the racial disparities in our criminal justice system raise serious concerns about harms to people in communities of color as a result of internet access to records.
Lastly, we are concerned about errors in court records and how those unintentional errors become effectively compounded by broad dissemination by individuals and the criminal background checking industry. And, of course, both with and without errors, there is the danger of criminal use of court records to harass, bully and otherwise harm individuals who have reason to believe that their privacy should be protected in such matters."
GLAD was a member of the coaltion that successfully worked to reform Massachusetts CORI laws in 2010.
Public Accommodations Protections for Transgender People in Massachusetts
GLAD is a member of the coalition Freedom Massachusetts, which has been working for passage of An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination.
The bill would add “gender identity” to existing Massachusetts civil rights law for public accommodations. Massachusetts law currently prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, religion, and marital status.
Current non-discrimination law in the Commonwealth does not expressly protect transgender people in public accommodations, such as stores, restaurants, hospitals, public transportation, and parks.
“In failing to expressly protect its most marginalized citizens as they go about their daily business, Massachusetts is falling behind in its leadership role on equality for all. Being able to point to a statewide policy of inclusion and support will give me and many others the authority we often need to respond when others are telling us to leave a public space or that we are wrong to be there.”
- Jennifer Levi, GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director, in testimony on the bill
For the latest information on the bill, and to take action, visit www.freedommassachusetts.org
GLAD’s Jennifer Levi Testifies in Support of Transgender Equality
Jennifer Levi, Director of the Transgender Rights Project for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, testified today at the Massachusetts Statehouse in support of a bill providing protections in public accommodations for the state’s transgender citizens.
Testimony on SB 735 and HB 1577 was heard before the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Current non-discrimination law in the Commonwealth does not expressly protect transgender people in public accommodations, such as stores, restaurants, hospitals, public transportation, and parks.
“In failing to expressly protect its most marginalized citizens as they go about their daily business, Massachusetts is falling behind in its leadership role on equality for all,” said Levi in her testimony, the full text of which can be read here on GLAD’s website. “Being able to point to a statewide policy of inclusion and support will give me and many others the authority we often need to respond when others are telling us to leave a public space or that we are wrong to be there.”
An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination would add “gender identity” to existing Massachusetts civil rights law for public accommodations. Massachusetts law currently prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, religion, and marital status. GLAD is a member of the coalition Freedom Massachusetts, which has been working for passage of the bill.
Act TODAY to help people with HIV get health care in Massachusetts
Act Relative to Abusive Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors
HD 3202 sponsored by Representative Kay Khan and also known as the "conversion therapy ban bill," would ban practices, erroneously called “therapy,” that purport to heal or change a minor’s same-sex attraction or transgender identity.
Specifically it would:
- Prohibit any licensed medical, mental health, or human service professional as defined in Chapter 112 from engaging with a minor in therapeutic practices aimed at changing or healing the minor’s sexual orientation, in particular same-sex attraction.
- Prohibit any licensed medical, mental health, or human service professional as defined in Chapter 112 from engaging in therapeutic practices aimed at eliminating a minor’s sincerely held conviction that their birth assigned gender is different or inappropriate from their actual gender identity, and related practices aimed to discourage that minor from seeking a transition to the gender they identify as.
- Charge state mandatory reporters to report cases of suspected instances where a minor is being subjected to reparative or conversion therapy by a state licensed professional.
- Define advertisements of such reparative therapy or conversion therapy as deceptive acts or practices in violation of state consumer protections laws, and subject to rules and regulations by the state Attorney General.
An Act Relative to HIV-Associated Lipodystrophy Treatment
GLAD continues to work with the Treat Lipodystrophy Coalition to pass An Act Relative to HIV-Associated Lipodystrophy Treatment.
This bill requires private insurers, MassHealth, and the Group Insurance Commission to provide medical treatment for lipodystrophy, a disfiguring side-effect of some life saving, but highly toxic, HIV medications.
HD 1769 is sponsored by Representative Sarah Peake and Senator Mark Montigny.
Read the Fact Sheet
Read the Stories of some of those living with lipodystrophy
For more information, contact: Bennett Klein, Esq., Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders Senior Attorney and AIDS Law Project Director | 617-426-1350
An Act Relative to Transgender Non-Discrimination
Massachusetts currently provides no express protections for transgender people against discrimination in public spaces like hospitals, stores, or public transportation. This bill would address that unjust situation by amending our public accommodations law to include gender identity.
The bill, HD 3072 An Act Relative to Gender Identity and Non-Discrimination and SD 398 An Act Relative to Transgender Non-Discrimination, is sponsored by Reps Byron Rushing and Denise Provost and Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz.
Share Your Story
GLAD and the Massachusetts Transender Political Coaltion (MTPC) would also like to hear about your experiences with discrimination in public accommodations in Massachusetts.
Addressing LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in Massachusetts
GLAD Staff Attorney Allison Wright submitted testimony to support the Boston City Council’s effort to address unaccompanied youth homelessness, an epidemic impacting the health and safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth in Massachusetts.
Excerpts from her testimony:
"In order to address this epidemic, homeless shelters within the city of Boston must be held accountable under Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws as well as Boston City ordinances, and should adopt LGBTQ inclusive policies to ensure LGBTQ youth are receiving services at homeless shelters free of discrimination."
"National studies estimate that up to 40% of youth who are homeless or are at-risk of becoming homeless identify as LGBTQ. Family rejection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is the primary factor contributing to homelessness amongst LGBTQ youth - most of whom are youth of color."
"Once homeless, LGBTQ youth are at higher risk of physical and sexual violence and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, including, but not limited to, HIV. Unaccompanied homeless LGBTQ youth are also at higher risk of developing substance abuse issues, mental health issues, and physical health issues. Finally, unaccompanied homeless LGBTQ youth are more likely to engage in survival crimes like sex work and petty theft. Thus, they are at higher risk of interacting with the criminal justice system."
"The city of Boston should encourage homeless shelters within the city to adopt transgender-inclusive policies that ensures the full inclusion and equal treatment of transgender people who reside at the shelter."
A Message from Ben Klein on An Act Relative to HIV-Associated Lipodystrophy Treatment
A message from Ben Klein, GLAD AIDS Law Project Director:
The formal session of the Massachusetts legislature ended at midnight on July 31 and, unfortunately, the lipodystrophy treatment legislation did not pass this session. I know that this is disappointing for all of us.
All of us here at GLAD and all who are members of the Treat Lipodystrophy Coalition remain committed to seeing that treatment becomes available for those who are experiencing the negative impact of lipodystrophy. It is very challenging to get a bill passed the first time around. We advanced very far into the legislative process and moved a lot of legislators who were deeply touched by the stories of people with lipodystrophy.
We have no intention of giving up on this issue. In addition to continuing our efforts on this legislation, we are already strategizing about non-legislative work we can undertake towards the goal of accessing treatment for people.
There are so many people to thank and I will not try to do that in any complete way now.
But I do want to give special thanks to the people living with lipodystrophy whose courage and willingness to share their stories publicly made all the difference, and, among them, a big shout out to our TLC Co-chairs Andrew Fullem and George Beth Hastie.
In addition, we have had outstanding and committed legislative sponsors, initially Carl Sciortino, and then Sarah Peake, who picked up leadership after Carl left. They and their aides worked tirelessly in this effort.
Finally, I also want to thank Arline Isaacson, one of the most respected and effective lobbyists in Massachusetts. Arline committed to this bill right at the beginning and her expertise and hard work got us much farther down the road than most bills get in their first try.
I am so appreciative of the work of all of you who testified, shared your stories, wrote letters, called or emailed legislators, and provided support in so many ways.
I know that we will all keep working to ensure that people with HIV get necessary health care.
Take Two Minutes Today to Help People with HIV Get Health care in MA
We're down to the wire in our effort to pass a crucial piece of legislation that will help people with HIV get health care.
We need your help to ensure An Act Relative to HIV-Associated Lipodystrophy Treatment is brought to a vote this session.
Please contact your representative today.
Lipodystrophy is a debilitating side-effect of some HIV medications that causes disfiguring body shape changes. People with lipodystrophy suffer terrible physical pain; many experience such disfiguration that they stop leaving their homes; some have contemplated or committed suicide.
The good news is that there are simple, cost-effective treatments for lipodystrophy.
But health insurers in Massachusetts regularly deny coverage for these life-saving treatments because they say they are "cosmetic."
An Act Relative to HIV-Associated Lipodystrophy Treatment, sponsored by Rep. Sarah Peake, requires private health insurers and MassHealth to cover treatments such as liposuction and dermal injections.
Please contact your representative today and request that they ask House Leadership to bring H4141 An Act Relative to HIV-Associated Lipodystrophy Treatment to a vote this session.
You can find and email your representative here or contact the General Switchboard at 617-722-2000.
Thank you for helping ensure sound and compassionate health care for people with HIV.
Treat Lipodystrophy Coalition
“A Bill to Require Insurance Coverage for Treatment of a Debilitating and Disfiguring Side Effect of HIV Medications,” sponsored by Rep. Carl Sciortino,has a hearing before the Joint Committee on Financial Services on March 5, 2014. Read more
About this Issue
GLAD and the Treat Lipodystrophy Coalition are working with Massachusetts Rep. Carl Sciortino to pass An Act Relative to HIV-Associated Lipodystrophy Treatment.
This bill requires private insurers, MassHealth, and the Group Insurance Commission to provide medical treatment for lipodystrophy, a disfiguring side-effect of lifesaving, but highly toxic, HIV medications.
HIV antiviral medications, known as “triple combination therapy” or “the cocktail,” revolutionized AIDS care in the 1990’s, extending the lives of people with HIV. These medications also can result in lipodystrophy, the abnormal distribution of body fat. The condition creates “visible disfiguring and stigmatizing morphological changes” in body shape and appearance, causing profound physical and psychological harm to people with HIV.
While there are inexpensive, effective medical treatments for lipodystrophy, insurers routinely deny claims for treatment on the basis that they are cosmetic and not medically necessary.
An Act Relative to Bullying in Schools
Massachusetts House Bill 454 and Senate Bill 206 would make much needed improvements to the state’s anti-bullying law. The act includes important provisions for enumerating protected classes - including LGBTQ students - for tracking and reporting bullying behavior, and for a student school climate survey.
GLAD supports the passage of this bill to strengthen protections for students in Massachusetts. Senior Attorney and leader of GLAD’s Youth Initiative Vickie Henry testified in support of the bill before the Education Committee on May 30, 2013. You can read her testimony here.
Statement by Attorney Vickie Henry Before The Massachusetts Commission on GLBT Youth
GLAD presented testimony June 20 before the MA Commission on GLBT Youth panel addressing the needs of youth across the state. Here is an excerpt from the testimony presented by Senior Attorney Vickie Henry, who leads GLAD’s Youth Initiative:
Chairman Lipkin and Members of the Committee:
As the leader of GLAD’s youth work, I have had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of youth across the Commonwealth, from Boston to Pittsfield to Salem to Hyannis to Holyoke and more. GLAD has been co-presenting a Got Rights? workshop for students with youth from BAGLY, The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth. I have been able to speak directly with these young people as well as GSA advisors and teachers about what they need and how schools and the law can do better by our youth. I have also spoken to youth who experienced our foster care system. The theme of this testimony is that adults can and must do better – we need to enact stronger laws and we need the adults charged with implementing those laws to set the tone that the Commonwealth, its agencies, and the school districts within it support LGBTQ youth and will not permit discrimination against them.
Key Points From the Testimony:
- Out-of-Home Youth Need Safe Shelter
- LGBTQ Youth Need Transparency and Accountability From Schools When They Report Bullying
- LGBTQ Youth Need Advocates in Every School, Not Just in the Statehouse
- Creating a Positive School Climate Will Not Only Protect Youth From Bullying, But Also Improve Academic Performance
Read the full testimony here.
Advocating for Insurance Coverage of the HPV Vaccine for Boys
GLAD is working to make sure young LGBTQ people live in a world in which they can safely be who they are and be healthy. That means a world free of bullying and harassment, where they can express themselves and form GSAs in schools. And it means a world in which LGBTQ young people have access to health care that meets their needs.
That’s why GLAD recently urged two insurers to cover the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine for boys. The FDA has approved the vaccine for girls 9-26 to protect against cervical cancer and boys of the same age to protect against anal cancer. Young gay men could receive life-saving benefits by receiving the vaccine.
But Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), our state’s largest insurer, covers the vaccine for girls only, not for boys. All three of the other major Massachusetts insurers are now covering this vaccine that prevents a serious disease, anal cancer, for which gay men and people with HIV are at higher risk.
BCBS’ position puts young gay men at unnecessary risk.
If BCBS is your insurer, please take a moment to call them and tell them they should join their competitors in being responsive to the healthcare needs of young gay men.
Supporting House Bill 2277, “An Act Relative to Safe Harbor for Exploited Children”
GLAD is part of a coalition working to pass HB 2277, better known as the “human trafficking bill.” Read attorney Ashley Dunn’s testimony to learn the potential impact of this legislation on homeless LGBTQ youth.
Judiciary Committee Hearing on the Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Bill
AIDS Law Project Director Ben Klein Testifies On MA HIV Testing Bill
GLAD’s AIDS Law Project Director Ben Klein today presented testimony before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health in support of S 1108 and H 2906, which would streamline HIV testing while safeguarding patients’ essential legal rights.
GLAD enthusiastically supports S 1108 and H 2906. These bills implement important public health policies that will facilitate the goal of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand HIV testing and link people who test positive to medical care. In addition, although eliminating the requirement of written informed consent for HIV testing, these bills maintain a meaningful process for ensuring that HIV testing remains voluntary and ensuring that patients maintain control over the decision to be tested. Read the complete testimony
MA: Ask Your Legislator to Pass the Transgender Equal Rights Bill
February 17, 2011
Earlier today, Gov. Deval Patrick signed an historic Executive Order prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and expression in state employment. It applies to all state agencies in the Executive Branch, as well as businesses and organizations that contract with the Executive Branch. (Read more)
Now it’s up to lawmakers to do the rest. Please contact your Representative and Senator and ask them to match the Governor’s commitment by passing the Transgender Equal Rights Bill this session, so that all transgender workers have the same protection.
To find your legislators go to
This will bring up your State Representative and State Senator and then you click on the link for each one which will bring you their phone number and email address.
Sample language you can use for your phone call or email:
Dear (name of Legislator)_____________
I am a constituent of yours from (list your town______). I am writing because I would like you to support “An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights” which has been filed in the House by lead sponsors Representatives Carl Sciortino and Byron Rushing and in the Senate by lead sponsor Senators Ben Downing and Sonia Chang-Diaz.
Today, Gov. Deval Patrick signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and expression in state employment. Unfortunately, there are a number of people who need the protection offered by this executive order but who will not get it because they are not state employees. Transgender residents of the Commonwealth face pervasive job discrimination and workplace harassment. A study released earlier this month by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force found that 76 percent of transgender respondents from Massachusetts were harassed or mistreated on the job, and 20 percent reported losing their jobs, because they are transgender.
Massachusetts should be a place of fairness and equality for all people, including transgender people. By updating the state’s non-discrimination and hate crimes laws we are extending fairness and equality in Massachusetts through these basic protections.
Please let me know where you stand on this important piece of legislation.
Phone Bank to Support CORI Reform
Last fall, the Massachusetts senate passed a comprehensive reform bill, aimed at increasing supervision of serious offenders while reducing employment barriers for those with old or dismissed charges. The house version of the bill is currently stalled in the Judiciary Committee, where Representative O’Flaherty is chair.
Proposed reforms would allow individuals to move on from offenses after 10 years, as opposed to the current 15-year wait. Charges of serious violence and sex-offenses, however, would be made more open to employers and housing agents.
At the end of 2008, Representative O’Flaherty took initial steps by favorably reporting a crime bill from his committee. But with 4 days remaining in the legislative calendar, the bill expired without a vote. In the 2009-10 session, action from the Judiciary Committee is pending while Speaker of the House DeLeo has affirmed that CORI would be addressed.
With consensus growing on the issue, statewide law enforcement groups including Massachusetts Sheriffs Association and the Massachusetts Major City Police Chiefs Association have added their support for the core reform goals.
MA: Ask Your Rep to Make Transgender Rights a Priority
A new poll just released by Lake Research Partners shows that 76% of likely voters in Massachusetts, including 81% of women, support H 1728 An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes. These results prove what we all knew all along; ending harmful discrimination against the transgender community is a Massachusetts value and ought to be made a priority of the state legislature.
We need you to ask your Representative to make this a priority now. Transgender Civil Rights cannot wait any longer.
An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes is currently being held in the Judiciary Committee, with no set date to be released for a full vote in the legislature. Please take a moment to contact your Representative, and ask them to call on House Speaker DeLeo to make An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes a priority this year.
Click here to send an email, or to be even more effective, make a phone call today.
You can use this message when you make your call:
My name is _____ and I am a proud resident of (your city). I am calling to ask you as my Representative to contact House Speaker DeLeo to urge him to make H 1728, the transgender rights bill, a priority this year. I can be reached at _______ (give your phone number). Thank you.
Thank you for supporting equality for all Massachusetts citizens.
Why do we need non-discrimination laws that cover gender identity and expression?
Watch this video:
Testimony of Jennifer Levi on MA Transgender Non-Discrimination Bill
Statement by Jennifer Levi, Esq.
Before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in Support of H. 1728/S. 1687
An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes
Honorable Co-Chairs Senator Creem, Representative O’Flaherty and Members of the Committee:
I am grateful for the opportunity to testify in strong support of H. 1728/ S. 1687, An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes. This legislation would add “gender identity or expression” protections to the Massachusetts non-discrimination statutes, including the Massachusetts general anti-discrimination protections in employment, housing, credit and lending, Chapter 151B; the Massachusetts education laws, Chapters 71 and 76; the Massachusetts public accommodations laws, Chapter 272; and the Massachusetts hate crimes law, Chapter 22C. The proposed legislation updates Massachusetts non-discrimination and hate crimes laws to ensure that they clearly and uniformly protect all people, regardless of their gender identity or gender expression.
I am the Director of the Transgender Rights Project at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). As an attorney at New England’s leading legal rights organization dedicated to ensuring legal equality for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and those living with HIV or AIDS, a key focus of my work has been addressing the pervasive discrimination faced by transgender people in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and other areas. I am also a Professor of Law at Western New England College whose teaching and research interests focus on the subjects of this legislation. My goal today is to explain why it is so crucial that the legislature add the phrase “gender identity or expression” to the Massachusetts non-discrimination statutes.
I. Gender Non-Conforming People Desperately Need Legal Protection From Discrimination.
The need to protect people from discrimination and violence on the basis of gender identity or expression is great.
Every day across this country, transgender people are disproportionately the victims of non-random, targeted violence. They include Jamie Rondeau, a citizen of the Commonwealth, who just a short time ago was beaten on the streets of Lowell, Massachusetts. The attackers repeatedly called Jamie “faggot” and made sexual slurs directed toward their victim. They include people like Angie Zapata in Colorado, who while born male, began living as a woman six years ago. Last year, at the young age of 18, Angie was brutally beaten to death with a fire extinguisher when the perpetrator found out that she was transgender. And while it is difficult to accurately document the frequency of these crimes due to vast underreporting, it is clear that hate-based violence against transgender people is a widespread and significant problem.
Likewise, employment discrimination can severely undermine an individual’s ability to make a living and support his/her family. For example, Anthony Barreto-Neto, a decorated police officer in Vermont who had been recognized for his longstanding public service was run off the police force by fellow officers after they learned about his transgender status through an internet search. After discovering that Mr. Barreto-Neto was born female and transitioned to male, fellow officers issued him faulty equipment and subjected him to a continuous pattern of harassment and inferior work conditions that became so severe he had to leave his job.
Unfortunately, these cases represent just the tip of the iceberg. Transgender people throughout Massachusetts, in cases which have not received the public attention of those just mentioned, face serious discrimination every day in jobs, housing, and public accommodations. I hear from these people every day when they call GLAD’s Legal Infoline for help. Unfortunately, when they do call, I have to tell them there are no explicit protections for them in Massachusetts law. Because of this pervasive prejudice, discrimination and misunderstanding, transgender people need a law to allow them to do that which most people take for granted – walk safely on our streets, work, seek and find housing, and use public accommodations without being subjected to prejudice and discrimination.
Nothing could be further from the spirit of Massachusetts’ commitment to freedom and liberty for its citizens. This law would make clear that such discrimination and violence is condemned by state policy.
II. Explicit Protections Are Needed To Fill A Void in Massachusetts Law.
There are no clear, explicit and established laws protecting transgender individuals in Massachusetts from discrimination – under either state or federal anti-discrimination laws. Explicit protections for transgender individuals will help affirm and clarify the Massachusetts anti-discrimination protections, so that it is clear to all that Massachusetts does not tolerate discrimination based upon a person’s gender identity or expression. These are important provisions both for those covered by the laws and those subject to them.
While GLAD believes that transgender individuals should be protected under existing sex and disability discrimination protections in Massachusetts, which generally follows federal case law interpretation of sex discrimination under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, see White v. Univ. of Mass., Boston, 410 Mass. 553, 557 (1991) (“The analysis of a discrimination claim is essentially the same under the State and Federal statutes.”), these legal protections have not been uniformly applied by courts to protect transgender individuals.
The modern national trend in case law interpreting sex discrimination protections is for both state and federal courts to interpret existing sex discrimination prohibitions to protect transgender individuals. See, e.g., Schroer v. Billington, 577 F.Supp.2d 293 (D.D.C. 2008) (holding that an employer’s refusal to hire employee because she informed them of her intention to transition from male to female was “literally discrimination ‘because of sex’”); Smith v. City of Salem, Ohio, 378 F.3d 566, 573 (6th Cir. 2004); Maffei v. Kolaeton Indus., Inc., 626 N.Y.S.2d 391, 396 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1995).
However, there is not complete uniformity across these court decisions, and some courts have found otherwise. See, e.g., Etsitty v. Utah Transit Authority, 502 F.3d 1215 (10th Cir. 2007); Oiler v. Winn-Dixie Louisiana, Inc., Order and Reasons, 2002 WL 31098541 (E.D. La. Sept. 16, 2002). As a result, legal uncertainty and inconsistency exists in Massachusetts as to the extent of sex discrimination protections for transgender individuals.
By adding explicit protections for gender identity or expression alongside other characteristics in Massachusetts non-discrimination laws, H. 1728/ S. 1687 provides clarity to our courts and citizenry as well as promotes consistency in our laws. Employers, landlords, businesses, educators and all Massachusetts citizens deserve clarity in our laws. In addition, the specificity of language included in H. 1728/S. 1687 is necessary as a matter of due process for perpetrators to insure that transgender people are protected against targeted hate-based violence.
III. Gender Expression Is A Necessary Protection Under This Bill.
In this bill, “gender identity or expression” is defined as “a gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.” This concept refers to people whose identification as either male or female does not match up with what they were assigned at birth, such as transsexual individuals. It also includes any person whose outward expression of their gender does not fall within society’s stereotypes of what a man or woman should act like, such as a masculine woman and a feminine man.
The term gender identity without the addition of the phrase gender expression could potentially be interpreted to only include transsexual people—people who have transitioned medically from one sex to another. If the phrase gender expression is left out—it leaves out people who may have characteristics or mannerisms typically associated with the other gender but who identify with the gender that they were born. For example, that could potentially leave out women with short hair or men with high-pitched voices from protections against being fired for nothing related to their job performance.
Protections for a person’s gender-related expression, appearance and behavior need to be broad because our past experience has shown that sex discrimination and race discrimination protections have been interpreted by some courts narrowly. For example, a recent federal appellate court ruled that an employer could fire a female employee for not wearing make-up. Jespersen v. Harrah’s Operating Co., 444 F.3d 1104 (9TH Cir. 2006). This would not have been the case if there had also been broad protections based upon characteristics associated with a person’s sex. This historical lesson demonstrates the need for broad protections for a person’s gender expression.
Because such explicit language is necessary to provide complete protections not only to the transgender population but the entire population, protections based upon a gender-related appearance, expression or behavior have become a standard protection amongst the 13 states that including gender identity or expression in their antidiscrimination laws.
IV. All Individuals Deserve To Be Able To Use Public Restrooms In Safety And With Privacy; Nothing In H. 1728/ S. 1687 Undermines Anyone’s Safety or Privacy
Everyone deserves to use restrooms in safety and with privacy. Transgender people pose no special safety risk to others who are using a restroom. In fact, transgender people are more likely to be the subject of harassment and safety threats in bathrooms, which is why explicit protections in the Massachusetts anti-discrimination law are all the more necessary.
And if there are instances of harassment or inappropriate use of bathrooms by any person – whether or not they are transgender – there are already civil and criminal laws to ensure people’s safety in restrooms. Employers and public accommodations will continue to have an obligation to make restroom facilities safe and accessible for all people.
We should not allow safety concerns to become a proxy for prejudice against transgender people. A full 37% of the American population, in 13 states, live in an area covered by a transgender-inclusive anti-discrimination law, and there have been no reported incidents involving a transgender person threatening the safety of anyone else in a restroom facility.
The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women, along with the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women have supported this bill and denounced opponents’ arguments about bathrooms as meritless. It is time to ignore these frivolous and disrespectful attacks and focus on the real and pressing issue of discrimination and violence against a vulnerable sector of our community.
V. Nothing in this Bill Undermines an Employer’s Ability to Enforce Reasonable Dress, Grooming and Appearance Requirements
An employer or school may require employees to follow reasonable dress codes and reasonable grooming standards; nothing in this bill changes that. Transgender individuals will still be required to follow an employer’s reasonable and lawful dress codes for men and women. The transgender employee or student simply must be permitted to conform to the dress code and standards of the gender with which they identify.
The reality is that social norms about dress and appearance are changing and courts have had to deal with complaints by both men and women about the restrictiveness of enforced and sometimes outdated social norms about appearance requirements. In cases where a dress code objectifies women or creates a perception that women are less professional than men, some courts have disallowed such gender-based dress codes. See Carroll v. Talman, 604 F.2d 1028, 1032-33 (7th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 445 U.S. 929 (1980) (“[T]he disparate treatment is demeaning to women. While there is nothing offensive about uniforms Per se, when some employees are uniformed and others not there is a natural tendency to assume that the uniformed women have a lesser professional status than their male colleagues attired in normal business clothes.”) Where dress codes simply differentiate between men and women employees but do not affect either group adversely, most courts have upheld such rules.
The importance of this legislation is that it ensures that transgender people who are well-qualified and capable of working are permitted to work and can do so with the dignity they deserve. This bill does not change the fact that if a gendered appearance requirement in the workplace is currently permissible, it may be enforced. It simply ensures that transgender people will be allowed to perform in those workplaces effectively.
Some opponents of this legislation have said that this bill will encourage people to cross-dress in the workplace or “flip-flop” in their appearance. These scenarios simply do not happen in reality. There has been no outbreak of cross-dressing or flip-flopping in the workplace in the jurisdictions and states that have adopted similar anti-discrimination provisions. The City of Minneapolis has had a transgender-inclusive non-discrimination law since 1975, and there has been no increase of cross-dressing activity in the workplace in that or any other jurisdiction.
VI. Massachusetts Will Join Other States And Local Jurisdictions That Ensure Freedom From Discrimination Based On Gender Identity or Expression.
Massachusetts need not fear that by explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression, it will be entering into uncharted territory. Instead, Massachusetts will join the growing number of state and local governments that have already recognized that preventing discrimination based on gender identity and expression is both necessary and desired and therefore should be addressed explicitly in law. In passing H. 1728/ S. 1687, Massachusetts would become the 14th state to explicitly prohibit discrimination against transgender people, joining Iowa, Minnesota, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. The District of Columbia also has a comparable non-discrimination law.
Over 30 years ago, Minneapolis became the first municipality to adopt transgender-specific non-discrimination language. Since then, the number of additional jurisdictions that have adopted similar measures has grown at a dramatic rate. In addition, there are hundreds of employers and dozens of universities with non-discrimination policies protecting transgender people.
It is time for Massachusetts to join this national movement towards equality and freedom from discrimination and violence for all citizens, regardless of their gender identity or expression.
July 14, 2009
Jennifer Levi, Esq.
Director, Transgender Rights Project
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
MA Transgender Non-Discrimination Bill Hearing July 14
“An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes” (H. 1728/S. 1687) will be heard by Massachusetts’ Joint Committee on the Judiciary next Tuesday, July 14. This bill will give all Massachusetts citizens equal protection under state law regardless of gender identity or expression. In doing so it will send a clear message that all citizens of the Commonwealth should be able to work, go to school, and live without fear.
Contact your legislators today and ask them to support this important bill.
GLAD is part of a statewide coalition working to pass this legislation. Key supporters include Governor Deval Patrick, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC), the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization of Women (MassNOW), and Jane Doe, the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.
A similar bill was sent out for study after its Judiciary Committee hearing last year. It was re-introduced this year in the House by Representative Carl Sciortino and Representative Byron Rushing and in the Senate by Senator Benjamin Downing.
Watch the video - Everyone Matters: Dignity and Safety for Transgender People
Read The Time is Now for Transgender Rights: An Update on Transgender Rights Legislation Across New England
MA Transgender Non-Discrimination Legislation Resources
An Act Relative to Gender Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes is currently pending before the Massachusetts legislature. For more information, and resources for talking to your legislators about supporting the bill, visit www.masstpc.org.
Working for Trans Protection Legislation in MA
Legislation to protect citizens from discrimination based on gender identity or expression is pending in Massachusetts. A hearing before the MA Joint Committee on the Judiciary for MA HB 1722, “An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes,” took place on March 4, 2008. GLAD Attorney Jennifer Levi presented testimony in favor of the bill.
From The Boston Globe: Governor Patrick Backs Bill
On the blog: Jennifer Levi’s thoughts on testifying
Read The text of HB 1722 [PDF]
Read Attorney Jennifer Levi’s testimony in support of MA HB 1722 [PDF]
Read AG Coakley’s Letter in Support of HB 1722 [PDF]
Fact sheet about the legislation [PDF]
Visit Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition for further information.
GLAD Cheers Defeat of Anti-Gay, Anti-Marriage Equality Measure
The Massachusetts Legislature voted 151 - 45 to defeat an anti-gay, anti-marriage equality amendment. With today’s vote, the equality GLAD won in the Goodridge decision stands safe in Massachusetts.