Boston Globe Columnist: “Baker Needs to Lead on Transgender Rights”
November 1, 2015

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Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abram penned a powerful piece this weekend, calling on Governor Charlie Baker to publicly support—and lead on—legislation protecting transgender Bay Staters from discrimination under Massachusetts’ public accommodation law.

Five years after the Governor said he would veto any legislation prohibiting gender identity discrimination in public spaces, Abram says “Baker’s unwillingness to take a strong stand on expanding protections for transgender men and women looks truly awful.”

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Abram first takes issue with deceptive characterizations of opponents of the legislation, primarily the contention that protecting transgender people from discrimination somehow poses a public safety risk to women and children in restrooms.

She cites Attorney General Maura Healey testimony before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, in which she made clear that in the 17 states and 200 cities—including 13 in Massachusetts alone—that have these protections on the books, there have been zero reported incidents of harassment. In fact, quite the opposite: Abram argues that “the only people getting hurt in bathrooms are transgender men and women themselves.”

Healey is just one of many prominent Bay Staters who have thrown their strong support behind the legislation. Abram points to our growing list of more than 160 businesses—including Harvard Pilgrim, where Baker served as CEO—and legislative leaders like Senate President Stan Rosenberg and House Speaker Bob DeLeo as clear proof that support for this legislation is wide-spread—and that it’s time for the Governor to get on board.

At the end of the day, Abram says, Baker must decide to send a clear signal that transgender people in Massachusetts should be afforded the same dignity, respect and legal protections as any other hardworking resident of our state:

Opposition to the bill is dominated by the same haters who fought gay marriage. Baker’s silence here only enables them. If he came out in favor of expanding transgender rights, it would send a powerful signal, and give fearful legislators cover. More important, it would make it clear that transgender men and women are worth as much as any other citizen of the Commonwealth. There may be times when it makes sense for a governor to hang back and let the politics play out. This is not one of them.

Baker must lead.

Tell Governor Baker and lawmakers: There can be no more delays. Pass legislation this year fully protecting transgender Bay Staters from discrimination.

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