At a private ceremony in his office today, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed an historic executive order that prohibits discrimination based on the gender identity/gender expression of state employees. Advocates for transgender equality applaud the governor's action, and many are hopeful that today's executive order will underscore the need for similar protections throughout Massachusetts. The proposed "Transgender Equal Rights Bill" endeavors to prohibit employment discrimination based on gender identity at the statewide level.
Today's executive order applies to all state agencies in the Executive Branch, as well as businesses and organizations that contract with the Executive Branch.
"This is going to make a real difference in the lives of transgender state workers and their families," said Gunner Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. "No one should have to work in fear that they could lose their job simply because of who they are."
Unfortunately, that is the reality for transgender people in Massachusetts and throughout the country. A national survey of 6,450 transgender people released earlier this month by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force & the National Center for Transgender Equality found that respondents had twice the rate of unemployment as the general population. Other findings reveal that:
-90 percent of those surveyed reported that they had been harassed on the job;
-47 percent said they believed they had been fired, not hired or denied a promotion because of being transgender; and
-26 percent said that they had lost a job due to being transgender.
Of the 283 respondents from Massachusetts, 76 percent reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment on the job; 20 percent said they'd lost a job; 17 percent said they had been denied a promotion; and 39 percent said they had not been hired for a job because of their gender identity.
These are startling realities that emphasize just how important it is that Gov. Patrick signed today's executive order. They also point to the need for protections for not only transgender state workers, but transgender people throughout Massachusetts.
"These statistics show the stark need for a statewide bill to prohibit employment discrimination based on gender identity," said state Rep. Carl Sciortino, a lead sponsor of the "Transgender Equal Rights Bill," along with state Rep. Byron Rushing and state Sens. Ben Downing and Sonia Chang-Diaz. "No one should work in fear of being fired from their job for reasons that have nothing to do with job performance."
The Transgender Equal Rights Coalition is working to pass the "Transgender Equal Rights Bill" (also known as “An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights"; House Bill 502 and Senate Docket Number 536). This law would add gender identity and expression to existing Massachusetts civil rights laws, which currently prohibit discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex and marital status in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, education and credit. The bill would also add offenses regarding gender identity or expression to the list of offenses that are subject to treatment as hate crimes.
"Governor Patrick is a true champion for the LGBT community, and we applaud the critical first step he has taken with this order toward creating a Commonwealth where all hardworking people, including transgender people, have the opportunity to make a living and provide for themselves and their families," said Kara Suffredini, executive director of MassEquality, Massachusetts' statewide LGBT-advocacy organization.
GLAAD applauds Gov. Patrick for issuing today's executive order, and we congratulate our community partners in Massachusetts who continue to work so tirelessly in pursuit of equality for LGBT people. At the same time, we urge the media to report on the significance of today's executive order and what this means for transgender state employees, and for what it could one day mean for transgender individuals throughout Massachusetts.