by Christine Lee, 22News State House Correspondent
BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Governor Deval Patrick hosted a ceremonial signing Thursday of a civil rights bill that extends protection from discrimination to people based on their gender identity or gender expression.
“I signed this bill as a matter of conscience. No individual should face discrimination because of who they are,” said Patrick
“And we intend to enforce that bill the way it is intended to do,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Patrick formally signed the transgender rights bill quietly in his office late November, but the start-of-the-year ceremonial signing drew an overflowing crowd from the transgender community.
Legislative leaders praised the progress Massachusetts is making toward recognizing transgender rights. “Allowing them to more easily find employment, housing, education, credit, and most importantly, a better quality of life,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop)
The bill is big step for the Commonwealth, but activists note, their work isn’t over yet.
“These things are vital but we mostly need public accommodation,” said Danica Ali, an LGBT activist from Springfield. “[It] must be added to the bill.”
Public accommodation refers to the right to stay at a hotel, ride a bus, or even use a bathroom without being discriminated against. The bill signed by the governor falls short of extending those rights to transgendered people and activists feel their fight isn’t over until it does.
“Just because it’s such a basic right for people and the fact that it’s not protected is kind of atrocious,” said Kaylin MacNeil of Holyoke.
The governor acknowledged there’s work to be done but for today, he wants to relish in what they’ve accomplished so far. The House Speaker said nearly 33,000 Massachusetts residents will now no longer face discrimination.