Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Other Major Businesses, Supporting New Campaign to Secure Nondiscrimination Protections
June 24, 2015

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Mike Givens
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Freedom Massachusetts launches bipartisan campaign to win passage of public accommodations protections for transgender Bay Staters

BOSTON – Some of the region’s and nation’s biggest businesses are supporting a new campaign aimed at updating Massachusetts’ nondiscrimination law to include public accommodations protections for transgender residents and visitors. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Google and Eastern Bank are among the corporations voicing their support today as part of the Freedom Massachusetts launch. The campaign is aimed at passing S.B. 735 and H.B. 1577, An Act Relative To Transgender Anti-Discrimination, through the state legislature in the coming months. The bill’s co-sponsors are Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Representatives Denise Provost and Byron Rushing.

State law currently provides nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, credit/lending, and public education. However, those protections do not extend to transgender people in the area of public accommodations, which are the places we’re in when not at home, work or school – such as hospitals, malls, restaurants, parks and government offices.

“Ensuring people can experience protection in public accommodations is essential to addressing health care disparities” said Karen Young, Vice President & Chief Inclusion Officer for Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. “It’s critically important that people be free from discrimination and harassment in health settings and other public accommodations having an effect on the access to health care and quality of life of transgender people in Massachusetts. Harvard Pilgrim is proud to support Freedom Massachusetts in making that a reality in Massachusetts.”

“Google is proud to support Freedom Massachusetts because we aspire to be a company that reflects the globally diverse audience that our products serve, including the transgender community,” said Steve Vinter, Engineering Director and Site Lead for Google Cambridge. “We believe that in addition to hiring the best talent, the diversity of perspectives, ideas, and cultures leads to the creation of better products and services.”

“At Eastern Bank, we believe in providing a strong, clear voice for those in need of advocacy,” said Eastern Bank’s Nancy Stager, Executive Vice President, Human Resources Director & Charitable Giving. “We proudly support the transgender community and Freedom Massachusetts because we firmly believe that our communities are strongest when we work together. Until everyone’s rights are protected, none of us have equal rights. Everyone should be safe and feel safe regardless of who they are or where they are. The law passed in 2011 didn’t go far enough to protect the rights of transgender people. It’s time to finish the job.”

Businesses are often on the leading edge of efforts to secure nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. In fact, nearly 90 percent of the nation’s leading Fortune 500 companies have nondiscrimination policies covering sexual orientation, while nearly 70 percent have similar policies covering gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a review of corporate policies supportive and inclusive of LGBT employees.

Harvard Pilgrim, Google and Eastern Bank are leaders within their own right – each of the three companies received a perfect score in this year’s CEI.

“At the end of the day, this work is about individuals. It’s about making Massachusetts a better, safer place where transgender people and their families don’t have to worry about facing unwarranted, hurtful discrimination when they’re simply going about their lives,” said Mason Dunn, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and co-chair of Freedom Massachusetts. “The support of companies like Google, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Eastern Bank sends a powerful message that these bills are the right thing to do, and that they move our state in the right direction.”

“We have an opportunity right now to fix a glaring gap in our state’s nondiscrimination laws so that Massachusetts can not only be a state that reflects the values of its residents, but a state that is poised to carry its economic successes and growth well into the future,” said Kasey Suffredini, Freedom Massachusetts co-chair. “Over the course of this campaign, we intend to show lawmakers just how broad support is for this commonsense update to our law.”

In November 2011, An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights was successfully passed, and implemented protections for transgender people in the areas of public education, credit/lending, housing, and employment. In 2015, Freedom Massachusetts is working to amend the law governing public accommodations to ensure that transgender people are also protected in public areas.

Freedom Massachusetts is a joint effort of state and national organizations, including the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, MassEquality, the American Civil Liberties Union, Freedom for All Americans, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, BAGLY, the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth, the Anti-Defamation League, PFLAG and the Human Rights Campaign.

Freedom Massachusetts is the bipartisan campaign working to ensure all people are treated fairly and equally under the law. Right now, state law doesn’t protect transgender Bay Staters from discrimination in the places we all are when we’re not at home, work or school. Freedom Massachusetts is bringing together all of the diverse voices who support these protections, from Republicans and Democrats to some of the region’s most recognized brand names. Together, our collective voice will send a powerful message that it’s time to update our law.

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