On transgender bill, Baker reiterates opposition to discrimination

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STATE HOUSE — Wading into an issue sensitive for the Republican governor ever since it became a flashpoint in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the corner office, Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday said he would wait to see the details of a transgender rights bill before choosing sides.

“I don’t want anyone to be discriminated against and I support the changes that were made in 2011. I do have some concerns getting away from current law going forward but as I’ve said several times I want to see the details of the bill,” Baker told reporters.

The Legislature previously passed a law adding transgender to the list of protected people under the state’s anti-discrimination laws, but a push this year appears to be gaining steam to include protected access to public accommodations based on someone’s gender identity.

The Judiciary Committee on Tuesday plans to hear testimony on bills filed by Reps. Byron Rushing and Denise Provost and Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (H 1577, S 735) that would expand anti-discrimination laws to allows access to legally gender-segregated public facilities based on a person’s gender identity.

Attorney General Maura Healey and U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III are expected to testify in favor.

“We should never discriminate against anybody. People should be protected. That’s absolutely my view,” Baker said. When pressed on his thoughts about access to public accommodations, the governor would only say, “The devil’s always in the details with respect to this sort of thing.”

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg favors the legislation, but said he hasn’t spoken to the governor yet about the issue and won’t until he’s sure he has the votes in the Senate to pass an expanded transgender rights bill.

“Once I know that I have the votes in the Senate, I’ll talk with a lot of other people,” Rosenberg said.

Like House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who has said he intends to hold a caucus with Democrats to take their temperature on the issue this fall, Rosenberg said he still needs to talk to his fellow senators.

“I’m hopeful that it will pass, and I’m hopeful that it will pass sooner than later because anti- discrimination work can’t wait. Every day that goes by, people are harmed as a result of not having adequate protection under the law,” Rosenberg said.

— Written by Matt Murphy

Copyright State House News Service