Category: Gender Identity

Legislative Update: Lifting the Cap on Kids and Banning Conversion Therapy

On Wednesday, March 13th 2019, the Massachusetts State House of Representatives passed legislation to ban conversion therapy on minors and legislation to expand access to public assistance for families. Both bills were priorities of mine this session (and past sessions) and I am excited vote for them to pass the House. More information about each can be found below.

Lifting the Cap on Kids

H. 104 – An Act to lift the cap on kids

  • This bill repeals a 1990’s punitive welfare reform that did not allow a family to receive additional welfare benefits for children born after the family started to receive benefits.
  • The current law means that parents have to split meager benefits meant for one child between two children. Parents typically receive $100 per month per child.
  • The bill directs that the Department of Transitional Assistance, which oversees the program, to implement the changes by 9/1/19 with aid retroactive to 1/1/2019.

Banning Conversion Therapy

H. 140 – An Act relative to abusive practices to change sexual orientation

  • Prohibits health care providers from advertising for or engaging in efforts that attempt or purport to impose change on the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient less than 18 years of age.
  • The controversial conversion therapy that this legislation would ban has been used to try to “convert” someone who is LGBTQ to being heterosexual, treating a person’s sexuality as an illness rather than a part of who they are.

Rep Livingstone Backs Transgender Bill

June 10, 2016
By Beacon Hill Times Staff

By John Lynds

Last week the Massachusetts House overwhelmingly passed the controversial landmark legislation regarding public accommodations for transgender people.

While many in opposition stood in the halls of the State House and chanted “no, no, no” with some saying the bill sacrifices the comfort of many for the comfort of few, there was an equal amount of people supporting the bill.

As passed, House Bill H.4343, An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination, states, “any public accommodation, including any entity that offers the provision of goods, services, or access to the public, that lawfully segregates or separates access to such public accommodation or other entity based on a person’s sex shall grant all persons admission to and the full enjoyment of such public accommodation or other entity consistent with the person’s gender identity.”

Touted nationwide by opponents as the ‘bathroom bill” the state’s House bill extends rights beyond public bathrooms. While a portion of the bill will allow transgender people to chose bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity it also protects transgender people from discrimination at restaurants and malls.

In response to growing concern that the passage of the bill could be used by male sexual predators to gain access to women’s bathrooms, Attorney General Maura Healey added an amendment that will set regulations or guidance for legal action against any person who asserts gender identity for an improper purpose.

“The Commonwealth has had a proven track record for leading the way in ensuring equal protection under the law for all of its people, and the current statute as it stands now is not reflective of these values that we celebrate.This change is essential,” said Beacon Hill State Rep. Jay Livingstone.

Governor Charlie Baker has already said he would sign the bill as is and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh also voiced his support for the bill.

The law will take effect on January 1, 2017.

Transgender Bill Cleared Judiciary Committee with Large Margins

By Andy Metzger

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.

House Leaders Confident About Redrafted Transgender Bill

The Joint Committee on the Judiciary has taken a poll on S.735, the Public Accommodations bill. Representative Livingstone has been a supporter of this legislation and looks forward to voting in favor of public accommodations for all people, regardless of gender identity, in the House.

“The Commonwealth has had a proven track record for leading the way in ensuring equal protection under the law for all of its people, and the current statute as it stands now is not reflective of these values that we celebrate.This change is essential,” said Livingstone.

To see more about Jay’s stance on transgender rights and public accommodations, CLICK HERE. To see more about the actual redraft and its history, read the article from the State House News Service below.


By Michael P. Norton and Colin A. Young

Marking a potential breakthrough on the issue, the long-awaited Judiciary Committee vote on transgender rights legislation has commenced, with House Speaker Robert DeLeo expressing confidence that a redrafted bill will protect transgender individuals from harassment and give businesses clear guidance to implement the proposal.

The bills being polled in committee Friday would ban discrimination against transgender people in public spaces, and would allow transgender individuals to use the public restroom or locker room that matches their gender identity — the most controversial aspect.

According to committee co-chairs Sen. William Brownsberger (D-Belmont) and Rep. John Fernandes (D-Milford), the panel opened polls on a Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz bill (S 735) and a redrafted House bill.

The House redraft would take effect Jan. 1, 2017 and states “any public accommodation including without limitation any entity that offers the provision of goods, services, or access to the public that lawfully segregates or separates access to such public accommodation or other entity based on a person’s sex shall grant all persons admission to and the full enjoyment of such public accommodation or other entity consistent with the person’s gender identity.”

The House redraft, based on a bill (H 1577) sponsored by Reps. Byron Rushing and Denise Provost, directs the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to adopt regulations or formulate policies and make recommendations “to effectuate the purposes of this Act.”

It would also require Attorney General Maura Healey’s office to “issue guidance or regulations for referring to the appropriate law enforcement agency or other authority for legal action any person who asserts gender identity for an improper purpose . . . ”

“This bill is the result of extensive conversations with members, advocates and the business community,” DeLeo said in a statement. “I am proud that through these discussions, the House has strengthened this important piece of legislation, and I particularly want to thank Chairman Fernandes. It is my belief that the provisions related to the Attorney General and MCAD will help prevent transgender individuals from being harassed and ensure that businesses have the guidance they need to properly implement the law.”

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said this week that the Senate tentatively plans to debate the issue May 12, and affirmed that timetable in a statement on Friday.

“I am glad to hear the Joint Committee on the Judiciary plans to release the Senate and House Public Accommodations bills,” Rosenberg said. “The Senate has been prepared to debate this since November, and we will go forward as planned on May 12th with our debate. It is imperative that legislators get a bill to the Governor’s desk as quickly as possible to end discrimination under the law for all transgender individuals. I thank Senate Chair Will Brownsberger, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, and the other members of the committee for their leadership in moving this bill forward.”

Gov. Charlie Baker has declined to state his position on the bill, frustrating its supporters and forcing lawmakers to take into consideration the potential that he might veto the legislation. Most recently he has said “people should use the restroom facility they feel comfortable using.”

Fernandes said he has not spoken to Baker about the bill, but added: “I think this language is consistent with some of the statements he’s made relative to his thoughts on the bill. He’s wanted to see the language. We think this language should help in his deliberations on this as well. And that’s where we’re at at this point.”

Brownsberger told the News Service Friday morning that committee members would have until 5 p.m. to vote on the bill. The committee has 17 members — 14 Democrats and three Republicans.

Fernandes said he’s aware that some believe his panel has been sitting on the bill, but said the legislation has received considerable attention in committee, including work over the past year to research transgender laws in other states and the experiences in those states.

Fernandes has practiced labor law, including discrimination cases, and said protected classes and businesses want “clear and consistent bright line rules.”
“I have a sense of how this stuff plays out in the real world,” he said. “The consistent thing that seemed to come to us was that guidance would be helpful in all of this.”

He said he believed the language directing MCAD and the attorney general’s office to play roles in establishing rules and protecting against asserting gender identity for an improper purpose had strengthened the bill and addressed concerns of opponents and lawmakers who have been undecided about whether to support or oppose the bill. “This goes a long way to address those concerns,” he said.

Even with the additional language, he said, “I’m one hundred percent comfortable that the intent and the integrity of the underlying bill is intact in total.”

Said Brownsberger: “The bill being reported to the Senate side is the original text without alteration. The version being reported to the House side includes some additional language, which we have not yet had the opportunity to fully vet. It is just emerging today. However I do believe the language is responsible and intended to provide additional guidance without weakening the fundamental protections of the bill.”

Brownsberger said that MCAD, under the original bill, “had the authority to make regulations to effectuate the purposes of the act. The House bill goes just one tick further and requires them to issue regulations and specifically to address when and how gender identity may be evidenced. It asks for some additional clarity about the concept of gender identity to be developed through regulations. It also adds language requiring the attorney general to issue guidance about how people should respond when they believe someone is asserting a gender identity for an improper purpose, basically just sort of faking it to get into the wrong place.”

Brownsberger said the House version of the bill also adds the effective date of Jan. 1, 2017.
Aside from Brownsberger and Fernandes, the committee includes Sens. John Keenan, Chang-Diaz, Patricia Jehlen, Cynthia Creem and Richard Ross, and Reps. Claire Cronin, Colleen Garry, John Velis, Michael Day, Jeffrey Roy, Evandro Carvalho, Carlos Gonzalez, Paul Tucker, James Lyons and Sheila Harrington.

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