For Immediate Release - June 29, 2012

Transgender Equal Rights Bill Goes into Effect Sunday, July 1

AG Coakley Supported Law that Prohibits Gender-Identity Based Discrimination; AG’s Website and Complaint Form Updated to Reflect Changes in Law

BOSTON – On Sunday, An Act Relative to Gender Identity, also known as the Transgender Equal Rights Bill, goes into effect. The bill was signed into law by Governor Patrick on November 23, 2011 and adds gender identity as a protected category to existing Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws covering employment, housing, public education, and credit and lending. The new law also adds gender identity as a protected category under the state hate crimes law.

“This law is a much needed update to our current anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said. “Transgender individuals are frequently targets of bias-motivated crimes.  The equal rights law is an important effort to ensure that transgender individuals in Massachusetts can be safe and secure – at home, at work, and in their communities – because no one should feel unsafe or be discriminated against because of their gender identity.”

The statute provides new protections for people who have transitioned from one gender to another, as well as people whose gender identity, expression, and/or behavior does not match their birth sex.  Individuals do not need to have undergone sex reassignment surgery to be covered by the new law, and the protection extends to individuals discriminated against based on the gender identity or expression, even if they do not identify as transgender.

The new law amends the state’s principal anti-discrimination statute, G.L. c. 151B, as well as others to prohibit discrimination in housing and employment and to ensure that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is prohibited in public schools. The Commonwealth’s hate crimes statute has also been changed to include acts against transgender individuals in the hate crime data collected by state police. 

The AG’s Office will have a role in enforcing the Transgender Equal Rights Bill. The AG’s Civil Rights Division reviews and responds to complaints alleging civil rights violations of residents and visitors in the Commonwealth.  The office may investigate and bring enforcement action, mediate disputes, or refer complainants to other resources. Anyone who believes that they have been subjected to unlawful gender identity discrimination is encouraged to file a complaint with the Civil Rights Division.  Information on the AG’s website and the Complaint Form have been updated to reflect the changes in the law. Complaint forms are available on the AG’s website.

Discrimination against transgender individuals in employment and housing remains a significant barrier to their access to opportunities. According to a 2011 national survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 47 percent of transgender respondents reported experiencing employment discrimination, including being fired, denied a promotion or simply not hired.  Additionally, 19 percent of respondents to the same survey reported being denied a home or apartment and 11 percent reported being evicted because they were transgender.  The survey also reported that 78 percent of transgender respondents reported being harassed while enrolled in primary or secondary schools.

AG Coakley was one of the earliest supporters of this bill and in June 2011, testified in favor of its passage before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.  In November 2011, she commended the passage of the bill. AG Coakley recently provided testimony to the Massachusetts Commission on GLBT Youth that touched on the challenges transgender youth face in public schools.  In her testimony, AG Coakley discussed the need for an amendment to the existing bullying prevention law that would require schools to specifically develop strategies as part of their bullying prevention plans to assist vulnerable student populations, such as transgender students.  AG Coakley has filed legislation, An Act Relative to Implementation of the School Bullying Law, advocating for that change.