Legislators in Massachusetts, the liberal bastion sometimes referred to as The Bluest State, just approved a bathroom law. The measure, passed Wednesday by state representatives, is dramatically different than North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB2), but is, in some quarters, just as controversial.
Massachusetts state representatives approved Bill H.4343 which would allow transgender or LGBT people to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice in public venues. The vote was 116 to 36, split largely along party lines, after hours of heated debate.
Beefing continued after the fact too. Opponents say the law would enable male predators to dress as women and stalk children in women’s restrooms.
Marc Lombardo, a Republican representative from Billerica, was not pleased. “This is a bill that would take away rights from more than 99 percent of the population—the basic right to privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms, the rights of our children to feel safe in a bathroom,” he said, according to The Boston Globe. Opponents have vowed to fight on.
In April, former Red Sox pitching ace and local hero Curt Schilling was fired by ESPN for posting a cartoon and comments related to the North Carolina bill that were perceived to be anti-transgender rights. Both his comments and his termination set off a firestorm.
Proponents of the Massachusetts bill say there is no evidence of child molesters using this bathroom masquerade tactic, and in any case, there are already laws on the books to prosecute anyone molesting a child in a restroom. Or anywhere for that matter.
The issue is not yet settled in Massachusetts, but the writing is on the wall. While the house bill states that the Attorney General’s office issue guidelines on how to deal with a person “asserting gender identity for an improper purpose,” a previously passed senate bill does not include those provisions.
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Earlier this week, Governor Charlie Baker, a moderate Republican who angered LGBT constituents by not weighing in on the issue for months, indicated he would sign the house bill. It’s now up to the senate and house decide what’s next although senate president Stan Rosenberg said he is amenable to the house bill.
Meanwhile, the fight is still on in North Carolina, where Republican Governor Pat McCrory has made the state’s HB2 bill a central cause even though the state’s biggest employers including Bank of America (BAC), Duke University, and IBM (IBM) as well as powers ranging from Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen to Salesforce (CRM) chief executive Marc Benioff have all slammed the bill. In March, North Carolina’s state reps pushed the law through for McCrory’s signature in record time.
Similar pressures from business leaders probably influenced the decision by Georgia governor Nathan Deal to veto a religious freedom bill viewed as discriminatory against LGBT people.