Healey: Transgender law guidance will be practical, detailed
By State House News Service | August 31, 2016, 16:37 EDT
STATE HOUSE — When a transgender rights law kicks into effect Oct. 1 businesses should presume people are using the appropriate bathroom, but may inquire into people’s gender identities when there is legitimate reason to believe they are using the wrong restroom, according to draft guidance Attorney General Maura Healey plans to issue Thursday.
The guidance, a mandate of the law, is intended to steer businesses over the terrain of the new law, which allows transgender people to use the public restroom or locker room that corresponds to their gender identity, rather than their anatomical sex. Businesses are already allowed to provide that type of transgender bathroom access, but the law will require they do so.
The law – which activists are hoping to repeal via the 2018 ballot – also requires restaurants, hotels and other public accommodations to give the same service to transgender people as everyone else.
On her way into a Governor’s Council hearing on Wednesday where she testified on behalf of Appeals Court nominee Sookyoung Shin, Healey broadly described the guidance for the News Service.
“This is the guidance that the Legislature asked our office to put forth to help guide businesses in terms of implementing this law, so we worked over the last several weeks with many folks, including members of the business community, to draft guidance that will be helpful,” said Healey, who said the guidance is “very detailed” and will answer some “very practical, concrete questions.”
Massachusetts driver’s licenses list the sex of the license-holder in addition to other information. The Boston Herald on Wednesday reported that the attorney general’s guidelines will discourage businesses from asking people to document their gender identity except in facilities such as sports clubs, which ask for that type of information generally.
Gov. Charlie Baker came around to signing the law after the House addressed the possibility of bathroom access to be gained for “improper purpose.” The law directed Healey to draft guidance or regulations on that subject, and the attorney general’s office has drafted guidance, according to a Healey aide. The law directed the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to draft regulations or policies around the new law, including how gender identity “may be evidenced.” The policies or regulations and guidance are due Thursday.
“We don’t ask people to be card-carrying members of any class here,” anti-discrimination commissioner Sunila Thomas George told the Herald.
The attorney general’s draft guidance notes the new law will not allow people to enter restrooms that don’t match their sex or gender-identity, and says that if a person acts improperly, a business may remove that person, and refer the matter to law enforcement if warranted.
Examples of improper or illegal bathroom conduct listed by the attorney general’s guidance are loitering to observe others, harassment, threats or violence, photographing or videotaping others without permission or other violations of law.
— Written by Andy Metzger
Copyright State House News Service