Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Update: Transgender Rights Bill Signed Into Law

On Wednesday November 23, 2011, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law "An Act Relative to Gender Identity," bringing gender identity under the protection of the state's anti-discrimiantion statute, Chapter 151B.  Massachusetts now becomes the 16th state to protect transgendered status in equal protection laws.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Update: Transgender rights bill passed by Senate

This past Wednesday, the Massachusetts state Senate passed the Transgender rights bill recently passed in the House. The bill is now headed to Governor Deval Patrick who has already said he will sign the bill. As soon as the bill becomes law, Massachusetts will become the 16th state to include transgender status under anti-discrimination laws. Derrek Shulman, the regional director of The Anti-Defamation League, New England, described the importance of the new measure: “Discrimination based on one’s gender identity or expression is just as destructive as discrimination based on those categories explicitly prohibited by current law and should receive equal and unambiguous protection.’’

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Update: Transgender rights bill passed by House

Last night, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 95-58 to pass the recently introduced bill that aims to protect transgender people against discrimination in the workplace. The bill will now head to the Senate for another vote. The vote came two days after the removal of a section that prohibited discrimination in public accommodations. As a result of this removal, some House Republicans and other critics of the bill claimed the vote a partial win but continued their criticism of the remainder of the bill. Representative Marc Lombardo was especially vocal in his disapproval of the bill, stating "it opens the door for social change that would take away the rights of hardworking men and women and parents". Governor Deval Patrick responded by saying he would sign the bill if it reached his desk and rejected his opponents' claims. He defended the bill by stating, "I don't think fairness is bad for anyone."  

I would tell Representative Lombardo that arguing against an equal rights bill because of fear that it will hurt businesses is a dangerous position.  It opens the door to justifying all types of discrimination.  Certainly, a Southern business owner in the 1950s could claim that by allowing blacks to shop at his store, or by employing blacks, he would drive away white customers.  Today, some business owners might claim that employing an openly gay customer service employee could drive away customers.  One should always be careful before citing the potential biases of customers as a reason to deny equal opportunity in employment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Transgender rights bill pushed forward, criticized

Massachusetts lawmakers are debating whether to add transgendered status to the list of protected classes in the state's anti-discrimination statute, Chapter 151B.  The Boston Globe reports that the bill has been advanced by Democrats while at the same receiving criticism from Republican lawmakers who say that the bill would hurt small business and take the Legislature's focus away from the economy.  They also claim the bill would spur lawsuits.  The bill is expected to come to a vote in the next few days.  The national political website Daily Kos has expressed support for the bill.  The bill does not include protection against discrimination in public accommodation.  Based on my research, it appears that a new version of the bill was introduced today that differs slightly from older versions.  None of the politicians involved has stated that the bill was changed, so it was probably just technical corrections.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Age discrimination alleged in fire department hiring

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination recently found probable cause to support a Milton Deputy Fire Chief's claim of age discrimination in department hiring practices. John P. Foley, who was 59 at the time he sought the position of chief of his fire department, claims he was denied the position because of his age. According to the Boston Globe, the position was offered to Milton Deputy Chief John Grant, 49 at the time, after he and Foley where finalists for the position. While the town denies such discrimination existed, Foley claims Grant had “less extensive educational background or experience.” In addition, Foley's lawyer stated, "the selectmen made Mr. Foley’s age an unlawful barrier to his promotion by indicating that they were looking for a candidate who would be in the position for at least 10 years and whose age would not require them to go through the selection process again in several years."After an 18 month investigation, the Commission ruled in support of Foley's claim after it found that the town had “failed to provide sufficient evidence to show a credible reason why Grant was chosen."

Both sides have six months to prepare for a hearing.