By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MAY 2, 2016
Reps. Colleen Garry, a Dracut Democrat, and James Lyons, an Andover Republican, were the only two members of the Judiciary Committee to vote against both versions of a transgender bill in a poll taken on Friday.
Republican Sen. Richard Ross, of Wrentham, and Republican Rep. Sheila Harrington, of Groton, both voted in favor of versions of the bill. Rep. John Velis, a Westfield Democrat, reserved his rights on both bills, according to a tally provided by the committee, which features mostly Democrats.
Both versions of the legislation (H 1577/ S 735) prohibit discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations and allow them to use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.
The House redraft would take effect Jan. 1 and requires the attorney general to issue guidance and regulations for instances where people assert “gender identity for an improper purpose.”
One of the concerns with the bill is the theory that it could be abused by men claiming transgender status to gain access to women’s rooms for nefarious reasons. Supporters say it will end real access problems faced by transgender people.
Rep. Byron Rushing, a Boston Democrat and sponsor of the legislation, previously told the News Service the bill has the support of more than 60 Democrats and it would be “helpful” for Republican members to make their positions known.
“I believe that there are other Republican legislators, who if the bill came up before us, would vote for it,” Rushing told the News Service in a mid-April discussion about the possibility of Republicans backing the bill in committee. He said, “We’ve been waiting for them to say something because obviously we want the governor to know that there are Republicans that are going to vote for this bill.”
Gov. Charlie Baker has not yet said whether he would approve the bill, counseling that he wants to see the details of any version that reaches his desk. On April 21 he released a statement that said, in part, that Baker “believes people should use the restroom facility they feel comfortable using.”
The House bill racked up eight favorable votes and two unfavorable votes with seven committee members reserving their rights. The Senate bill gained the support of seven committee members and was opposed by three as seven members reserved their rights.
All six Senate members of the committee voted in favor of the Senate version and reserved their rights on the House redraft. Rep. Michael Day, a Stoneham Democrat, voted against the Senate version and in favor of the House version.
While most House members reserved their rights on the Senate version, Rep. Evandro Carvalho, a Dorchester Democrat, voted in favor of it.
Senate President Stan Rosenberg said the chamber plans to take up the bill May 12, and the legislation has the backing of House Speaker Robert DeLeo.