Transgender elected officials promoting bill’s passage

Tantasqua, Melrose school committee members say bill would help transgendered people and their loved ones

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BOSTON (State House News Service) – Two of the first openly transgender elected officials in Massachusetts have joined the chorus of voices calling for the Legislature to pass transgender anti-discrimination legislation this session.

In an op-ed written in Commonwealth Magazine this week, Jacquelyn Ryan, a member of the Tantasqua School Committee, and Lizbeth DeSelm, a member of the Melrose School Committee, argued the Legislature ought to “finish the job that lawmakers began in 2011” and ensure full protections for transgender citizens.

“We have dedicated a great amount of time and energy over the past years to making Massachusetts a better place to live and work for all its citizens,” they wrote. “Now, we ask the Legislature to do the same for us by doing the right thing and passing the transgender public accommodations bill without any further delay.”

Ryan and DeSelm wrote that passage of the bill (S 735/ H 1577) would “help transgender people and their loved ones, and it would harm no one.” It would also help them, both elected members of a local school committee, to be better able to do their jobs and contribute to their communities, they said.

“Currently, we’re not protected from discrimination in the very government buildings we are expected to visit as part of our jobs. In addition, we’re not protected from discrimination in any other public accommodation, including restaurants, hotels, theaters, parks, shopping malls, or other businesses,” Ryan and DeSelm wrote. “Under current Massachusetts law, in fact, transgender people can work a full-time job at a restaurant or other service establishment, and then not be served at that very same place. This is wrong.”

Related: Transgender bill still a goal for speaker this session

Earlier this week, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who has expressed his support for the bill, said he is not certain whether the House would have the votes to override a possible gubernatorial veto.

Gov. Charlie Baker has said he is opposed to anyone being discriminated against in Massachusetts and will wait to read the final bill before deciding whether he would sign or veto it.

The legislation would provide anti-discrimination protections to transgender people using public accommodations and would allow them to use public bathrooms and restrooms associated with their gender identity rather than their anatomical sex.

The bill has not moved since January 2015, when it was first filed and referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. A public hearing was held in October and the bill was included in an extension order this week allowing the committee until May 2 to take action on it.

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