The Commonwealth of Massachusetts jumped on the transgender bathroom bandwagon Wednesday when its House of Representatives voted 116-36 to move forward with a bill that legally replaces the concept of biological sex with that of gender identity.
The “Gender Identity Public Accommodations Bill,” or H.4343, seeks to further push for transgender “anti-discrimination” laws in three separate parts.
First, it would amend multiple areas of Massachusetts law to replace the word “sex,” with “gender identity.” Secondly, it would mandate that “[a]ny public accommodation…shall grant all persons admission to and the full enjoyment of such public accommodation or other entity consistent with the person’s gender identity,” while finally ordering the the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to amend rules and policies to comply with the redefinition of sex to gender identity.
"We are doing the work the founders of our nation intended for us to do," said co-sponsor Byron Rushing of the bill prior to its passage. “This is a great day for us and we should be very proud.”
"This is a historic day for Massachusetts," reads a statement from pro-transgender group Freedom Massachusetts. "The wave of legislative activity #TransBillMA has seen in the last two months is the culmination of a decade-long fight to fully protect transgender people from discrimination in the Bay State."
Others, however, were not so convinced of the law’s merit.
“This legislation takes rights away from 99.9% of the population,” said Rep. James Lyons of Andover (R), who voted against the measure. “Every parent that I have spoken with including a parent of a transgender child understands that this bill eliminates long held expectation of privacy and protection for children.”
“This is a collision of rights. Rights in conflict,” continued Lyons in his emailed statement to Conservative Review. “I have yet to see how changing the law to remove what is currently on the books helps anyone.”
Final vote on passage was delayed by a nearly five-hour round of debate over at least 36 proposed amendments which some likened to a Senate filibuster. The amendments in question included, among several others, provisions to which would have excepted facilities primarily used by minors, such as public school bathrooms and locker rooms, one that would have required proof of medical transition for individuals to use facilities that do not coincide with their biological sex, and one which would have exempted multiple use facilities, “where there is an expectation of privacy” among occupants, from the bill.
— Lizbeth DeSelm (@LizbethDeSelm) June 1, 2016
Only one of the amendments, a technical rewrite of section 2 of the bill, was adopted.
When debate on the bill began in the early afternoon, Lyons gave an impassioned speech on the House floor against the bill to a response of thunderous applause from the gallery, arguing that it was unnecessary due to the fact that transgender individuals are already protected from discrimination under current law.
“Based on my review, this is a medical issue. How does allowing the use of the bathrooms and locker facilities solve a medical issue and furthermore how does this law achieve the goal of eliminating discrimination?" reiterated Lyons in his statement to CR. "It appears both United States Supreme Court and the Massachusetts Supreme Court have provided guidance that transgender people are protected under existing statutes. MCAD is enforcing current laws. GLAAD states that transgender people are protected. So what is the issue? The issue is should we as legislators eliminate privacy rights and protection for our children.”
The bill, which has already passed in the Massachusetts Senate, now heads to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk, where it will likely receive his signature for final passage.
“We’ve certainly listened to a variety of points of view from many sides and have said, from the beginning, that we don’t want people to be discriminated against,” said the governor in an interview with the Boston Globe on Tuesday. “If the House bill were to pass in its current form, yeah, I would sign it.”
But while the Bay State has passed legislation in line with the recent cultural and legislative push to legally replace biological sex with experienced gender identity, other states are fighting back against it.
Currently, a total of 13 states across the country have banded together in filing a federal lawsuit against the Obama Administration’s recent 25-page letter that all but mandates transgender bathrooms in public schools nationwide.
"Our local schools are now in the crosshairs of the Obama administration, which maintains it will punish those schools who do not comply with its orders. These schools are facing the potential loss of school funding for simply following common sense policies that protect their students," stated Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at the announcement of the lawsuit last week.
Furthermore, in a statement released Tuesday, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) announced that his office would be sending a letter to school districts throughout the state instructing them not to comply with the federal bathroom mandate.
“The President’s threat of withholding federal funds is just a threat. By standing together we will demonstrate Texas will not be threatened or blackmailed by a policy that doesn’t make sense and puts our girls and women at risk.”
Following the announcement of the Administration’s proposed guidelines in May, Patrick accused the President of extortion due to the implied threats that public schools which do not comply could lose federal funding.
"He says he's going to withhold funding if schools do not follow the policy," Patrick said a few days after the Administration’s mandate was issued. "Well, in Texas, he can keep his 30 pieces of silver. We will not yield to blackmail from the president of the United States."
"So Barack Obama, if schools don't knuckle down to force girls showering with boys and force 8-year-old girls to have to endure boys coming into their bathroom — he's taking money from the poorest of the poor. The president of the United States will be ending the free breakfast and free lunch program — that's what he's saying.”
A conference committee will convene in the coming weeks to reconcile the differences between the differences between the House and Senate versions of the Massachusetts bill.
Nate Madden is a Staff Writer for Conservative Review, focusing on religion and culture. He previously served as the Director of Policy Relations for the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. A John Jay Fellow, Citadel Parliamentary Fellow and National Journalism Center alumnus, Nate has previously written for World Magazine, The Washington Times, Catholic News Service, Patheos, Ethika Politika, and The Christian Post. Follow him @NateMadden_IV.