Groups ratchet up push for transgender bill

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BOSTON – Gov. Charlie Baker and some lawmakers are refusing to budge on a bill that would give transgender people access to public restrooms and locker rooms based on their sexual identity rather than their physical gender, despite increased pressure from activists.

Nicknamed by conservatives as the “bathroom bill,” the measure would expand a 2011 law aimed at preventing discrimination against transgender people by extending that protection to cover access to public accommodations. Baker has been noncommittal about the bill, which opponents have said could expose children and women to sexual predators and invade their privacy.

Baker publicly opposed the measure during his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for governor.

Appearing Tuesday on a WGBH-FM talk show, Baker responded to a caller who asked if he would support the bill by noting that “details are important” in any legislation that reaches his desk, according to State House News Service. He was asked what guidance he would give to lawmakers about structuring the bill to meet his approval, Baker was noncommittal.

“Rather than dictating from on high, which they hate, and telling them exactly what they should do, which they also hate, my view on this is I should let them work this stuff through and then deal with it when it gets to me, which is what I’m going to do,” Baker said, the news service reported.

If he chose to veto the bill, two-thirds of both the House and the Senate would have to vote to override Baker to pass the measure into law.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst) has said he is prepared to bring the bill up for a vote, but House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) told the news service that some House members are uncomfortable with the measure as proposed.

The state’s Democratic party condemned Baker for hedging on the current bill in a statement Tuesday, accusing him of a lack of leadership.

“Baker’s refusal to lend the stature Massachusetts residents entrusted in him to promote the rights of a discriminated community is just more status quo leadership from someone who increasingly appears to be serving as a status quo governor,” MassDems Spokesman Pat Beaudry said in a statement. It cited support for the bill by all the major league sports teams in Boston as well as the New England Patriots and Revolution.

“Voters expect leadership from their Governor, and once again Republican Baker is showing his lack of vision,” Tyler Carlton, Karen Payne and Stephen Driscoll, the leaders of the party’s subcommittee on the issue, said in the statement. “As the first state to legalize equal marriage, we are used to Massachusetts leading the nation in human rights, yet while 17 other states have passed public accommodation bills, Republican Baker chooses the status quo.”

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis.