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.