State educational establishment lends support to transgender bill

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BOSTON >> The state's educational establishment on Monday lent support to a hot-button bill allowing transgender people to use locker rooms associated with their identified gender rather than their anatomical sex.

Both House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg have endorsed the legislation, though the speaker has expressed doubt about whether the House has the votes to override a gubernatorial veto. Gov. Charlie Baker, who opposed a prior version of the bill years before, has kept his own counsel on the pending legislation.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the two major Bay State education unions, joined with the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents and the Massachusetts Association of School Committees to announce support of the transgender bill on Monday.

The policy proposal divided lawmakers before it was dropped from a 2011 law barring employment and housing discrimination against transgender people. The bill (S 735/ H 1577) currently pending in the Judiciary Committee would bar discrimination against transgender people's access to public accommodations, including sex-segregated facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms.

Opponents of the legislation have focused their attention on its effect on young people, raising the specter of males masquerading as transgender females to gain access to the girls' bathrooms.

"I hope there will be severe consequences at the ballot boxes of anyone who chooses not to protect our children," Rep. Marc Lombardo, a Billerica Republican, told the News Service earlier this year.

Proponents counter that schools already accommodate transgender students. After the 2011 law took effect in 2012, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education advised that principals should clarify transgender students "may access the restroom, locker room, and changing facility that corresponds to the student's gender identity."

"Superintendents across Massachusetts have been welcoming transgender students to their schools for years without issue," said Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents Executive Director Tom Scott in a statement. "It is now time to extend those same protections to transgender students and their teachers beyond the classroom and the schoolyard."

The support of teachers unions and the associations representing schools' elected and appointed leaders follows the endorsement last year and this year by the area's major sports teams — the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and Revolution.

Wednesday is the deadline for committees to issue a report on legislation filed at the beginning of the session, though extensions may be issued. Attorney General Maura Healey, who has likened the bill to the push to end racial segregation half a century ago, will meet with transgender youth and their families on Tuesday.


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