AG Healey to give guidance on transgender law requirements
BOSTON >> Guidance from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey on the state's new transgender rights law will include potential scenarios in which a person could face arrest for making an improper claim of gender identity.
The law signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker last month extends anti-discrimination protections to public accommodations and allows transgender people to use bathrooms or locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.
The Legislature instructed Healey to provide rules or make recommendations to businesses and law enforcement prior to full implementation of the measure on Oct. 1. Lawmakers wanted Healey to include advice on how to deal with a hypothetical situation in which an individual falsely claims gender identity for the purpose of gaining access to an otherwise gender-segregated facility.
Healey, a Democrat who strongly supported the bill, planned to offer guidance only, which will be submitted to the Legislature on Thursday, her office said.
A draft outline provided by aides said there have been few reports of improper claims in states that previously adopted protections for transgender people in public accommodations. Businesses therefore, would be advised to presume that patrons are using the appropriate bathroom or locker room unless there is a compelling reason to believe otherwise.
A person suspected of falsely claiming gender identity could be questioned on a limited basis, according to the outline.
Businesses could remove a patron or call police in cases of illegal conduct such as loitering in public accommodations for the apparent intent of watching others; photographing or videotaping other patrons; or any kind of harassment or threats. Supporters of the new law note that in most cases such behavior already is illegal under state law regardless of gender identity.
Critics of the law have suggested that male sexual predators could use the law as a pretext for entering women's bathrooms or locker rooms. The Massachusetts Family Institute recently announced a signature drive that aims to place a question on the 2018 ballot calling for repeal of the law.
The law also called on the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to provide any regulations or guidance on the new law by Sept. 1. The agency had yet to make a formal filing.
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