Transgender bill still a goal for Massachusetts House speaker this session

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BOSTON >> While House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Monday he hoped to pass transgender anti-discrimination legislation this session, the House voted to give the committee reviewing the legislation additional time before it must make a recommendation.

DeLeo, who supports the bill that would provide anti-discrimination protections to transgender people using public accommodations, said he still does not know whether the House would have the votes to override a possible gubernatorial veto.

Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday that his position on transgender rights legislation was not altered by Monday's news that the state's major teachers unions and groups representing school superintendents and school committees had endorsed the proposal.

"We certainly support non-discrimination in Massachusetts for anybody. But the details on this one are important, and I know the Legislature's been working on it, and we look forward to seeing what they produce," Baker told reporters after meeting with DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg - who both support the bill.

Its fate uncertain, legislation providing transgender people with new anti-discrimination rights might not join the flurry of bills moving out of committees ahead of a Wednesday deadline.

The bills (S 735/ H 1577) have not moved since the start of the session when they were referred to the Judiciary Committee. While Wednesday is the deadline for committees to report out timely filed legislation, those two bills are part of an order seeking to extend the deadline to May 2, according to a committee staffer.

Baker on Monday said he is not sure whether he would veto the transgender bill should it reach his desk. "It would depend on what it says," he said.

The legislation would provide anti-discrimination protections to transgender people using public accommodations and would allow them to use public bathrooms and restrooms associated with their gender identity rather than their anatomical sex.

DeLeo has sought to gauge support among House Democrats for the bill, but said Monday that little has changed over time as lawmakers have had a chance to study the proposals.

"Those who are for it really have stayed the course and are still wanting to move forward. So it's probably about in the same place as it was before," said DeLeo, who said members are still relaying the "same concerns" about the legislation. Asked whether the House has the votes to override a veto, DeLeo said, "I'm not sure of that."

Opponents have raised concerns about the privacy of other individuals using the sex-segregated facilities.

DeLeo said the prospects of the bill's passage become dimmer as the end of session in July draws nearer.

"My hope is really that we do it this session. The closer it gets to the end of the session it becomes, I suppose, more doubtful but my hope still is that we try to get it done this session," DeLeo said.

July 31 — a Sunday — is the last day of formal sessions when roll call votes can be taken and controversial bills can pass in the face of opposition from a minority of the members. The governor has 10 days to review legislation before either amending and sending it back, vetoing it or allowing it to become law.


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