The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, Massachusetts Major City Chiefs and 13 other local law enforcement officials have taken an official position in support of HB 1577 and SB 735, legislation to update the Commonwealth’s non-discrimination laws to include protections for transgender people in public spaces.
Opponents of the legislation have relied almost entirely on the false claim that extending full protections to transgender people will put public safety at risk by allowing men to enter women’s restrooms and harass women and children.
This show of resounding support from law enforcement agents is testament to just how unfounded these “bathroom scare” claims truly are.
Chief William G. Brooks III of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, and Chief Brian A. Keys of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs issued a joint statement, which read:
We believe the proposed legislation will improve public safety in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, transgender people are frequently the target of criminal conduct, particularly in public space. There is no reason to believe that individuals—whether transgender or otherwise—will use these protections as cover to enter into the restroom or locker room of the opposite sex and engage in criminal misconduct. We are aware of no such incidents that have occurred in Massachusetts communities that already have such protections in place.
Brooks and Keys message touches on a reality that has been absent from much of the debate around full transgender protections. Ultimately, transgender people are actually one of the most at-risk groups when it comes to harassment and harm in public spaces, including restrooms. Contrary to opposition claims that transgender people are the perpetrators of violence—in fact, they are too often the victims.
Bottom line, there are inconsistencies in Commonwealth non-discrimination law that exclusively impact transgender people. This runs counter to Massachusetts values of inclusion and fairness. And beyond that, lacks commonsense, as Attorney General Maura Healey pointed out at the public hearing on SB 735 and HB 1577:
A transgender person can’t be discriminated against in hiring at a restaurant but they can be denied entry. This doesn’t make sense…discomfort is not a reason to perpetuate discrimination, not in this state!
A majority of Bay Staters support fully inclusive non-discrimination legislation. We know we have the votes to pass this critical legislation.
But right now, SB 735 and HB 1577 are stalled in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. If they are not brought up for vote and sent to the Governor’s desk before November 19th, then the legislation will remain undecided until 2017. Massachusetts cannot wait that long for full non-discrimination protections for transgender Bay Staters.