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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Religious Leaders Push for Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Bill

By Michael Jones -

When it comes to the subject of transgender discrimination in Massachusetts, the statistics are grim. According to a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, upwards of 76 percent of all transgender residents in Massachusetts face harassment or mistreatment in the workplace. On top of that, a full 20 percent have said that they've been fired from a job, solely for being transgender.
Stark statistics like this make it all the more grim that for months upon months, legislators have sat on a Transgender Equal Rights Bill that would add "gender identity and expression" to the state's civil rights laws -- ensuring that transgender residents in Massachusetts would be legally protected from discrimination on the basis of employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and credit.
Now a group of religious leaders in Massachusetts are coming together to push lawmakers on transgender rights, and urge them to get behind the Transgender Equal Rights Bill. According to the Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality, about 135 clergy throughout the state of Massachusetts are coming together to push for this bill. That includes Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, who told the Boston Globe that religious people have a commitment to help root out discrimination wherever it appears.
"Supporting this legislation, and supporting transgender people in the life of the church and in secular society really has to do with the living out of my baptismal covenant," Bishop Shaw said. "Unless everyone has equality . . . nobody is really free."
Earlier this year, the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, signed an executive order protecting state transgender employees from workplace discrimination. While this was a welcome move and celebrated by activists, the action has its limitations. It only applies to state workers, for instance, and does not address other civil rights laws (such as the state's hate crimes statute) that the Transgender Equal Rights Bill would impact.
The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition is getting ready for a statewide lobby day on transgender rights, scheduled for May 3. This bill is a major priority for the group, and it should be a major priority for all LGBT folks concerned about rampant workplace discrimination, hate crimes, housing rights, and discrimination at public accommodations. There should be, simply put, no more settling for legislators dilly-dallying on passing this bill. And that's a point made crystal clear by the interim Episcopal Chaplain at Harvard University, Dr. Cameron Partridge.
"It's frustrating that it's actually been three years since this law was initially proposed and there was a ton of support for it last year, and I think there's still a lot of support. It's not fair for it to be hung up," Dr. Partridge told 22 News.
Frustrating is one word for it. Immoral and unjust are two others. Let's help get this bill out of committee, and into state law in Massachusetts.

Michael Jones is a Editor. He has worked in the field of human rights communications for a decade, most recently for Harvard Law School. 


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