Massachusetts has been at the forefront of many civil rights battles. Transgender rights is not one of them, but on Friday the state did join the cause.
Governor Baker, who is usually strong on social issues, had been reluctant to lend support to people who are often misunderstood and to legislation tagged with the title of "bathroom bill." The Legislature did the heavy lifting — the Berkshire delegation earns praise for its support — and on Friday the governor signed a compromise bill agreed to by the House and Senate.
The law assures that transgender people will be allowed to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identities. As such, it provides basic rights to people who have long been discriminated against.
Transgender rights legislation has confronted misinformation and ignorance across the nation, most notably in North Carolina, and Massachusetts was at least spared the worst of it. Opponents claim these laws will somehow benefit sex offenders, even though there is no case on record in which a transgender person or someone pretending to be a transgender person sexually assaulted someone in a public bathroom. There is no reason to call in the bathroom police, which would have been necessary had an amendment passed banning sex offenders from opposite gender bathrooms. That unenforceable provision was a poison bill designed to kill a good law.
Massachusetts public schools have been assuring transgender students these rights since 2012 without incident. Like most manufactured civil rights controversies, this one will be forgotten. But the benefits will long be felt.