Transgender ‘Bathroom Bill’ wins DeLeo’s support

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BOSTON – A measure ensuring access to restrooms and other public facilities for transgender people, known to some as the Bathroom Bill, won the backing of Speaker Robert DeLeo Tuesday, although the leader of the House of Representatives said a vote on the bill may not occur until 2016, if at all.

The measure would bar discrimination against transgender people’s access to restrooms and school locker rooms based on their sexual identification rather than their physical makeup. Both bills would expand a 2011 anti-discrimination law. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) told reporters most lawmakers want more information on the proposal before they will feel ready to vote on it, according to the State House News Service.

“I agree that there needs to be more homework done,” Rep. Jim Lyons, (R-Andover), an opponent of the bill, told the NewBostonPost. “My hope is that we let the parents and folks of Massachusetts know this is about taking away privacy from women and children.”

The bill has also won support from Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst), and the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation, all Democrats. Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, hasn’t said whether he would sign the measure if it reaches his desk.

Supporters of the legislation have been pushing for a House vote on it before the Legislature’s seven-week holiday break, which begins Thursday. They say Massachusetts is falling behind other states and cities that have extended legal protections to transgender individuals, according to State House News.

DeLeo said in September that he wanted to hold a caucus to allow members to discuss the bill, the news service said.

“I think if you take a look I sponsored one of the meetings wherein the legislation was discussed, so whatever, I am in favor of the legislation,” DeLeo told reporters during a break in a closed-door Democratic caucus at the State House. In July, DeLeo sponsored a briefing on the bill for lawmakers along with Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville) and Majority Whip Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston), both supporters of the measure.

Still, DeLeo said no House vote on the bill is likely before next year, if then, according to State House News. He said further discussion and “homework” was needed to answer questions that some lawmakers have before they might be comfortable voting on the legislation.

“They’re looking for more information than anything else right now,” DeLeo said, according to the news service.

“We know it’s coming back in the new year,” said Andrew Beckwith, the president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, a Woburn-based nonprofit research and advocacy organization. In an interview with the NewBostonPost. He said his group is “continuing to monitor it, letting people know what the impact is coming back for the privacy and safety of women and children.”

Delaying action on the transgender bill could make its passage more difficult in an election year in 2016 when members might be more reluctant to take controversial votes, but DeLeo said his intention is not to stall the bill.

“I think I have to have some more discussion with members to actually see where they are on it before we discuss if and when it would come up,” he said.