- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he would sign a bill forcing many private businesses to allow restroom and locker room access on the basis of gender identity, should it reach his desk.

Mr. Baker, a Republican, told The Boston Globe Tuesday that the bill addresses concerns over discrimination faced by transgender people.

“We’ve certainly listened to a variety of points of view from many sides and have said, from the beginning, that we don’t want people to be discriminated against,” Mr. Baker said. “If the House bill were to pass in its current form, yeah, I would sign it.”

Bill S.735, which has passed the state Senate and is expected to be voted upon in the house Wednesday, in its current form requires “any entity that offers the provision of goods, services, or access to the public, that lawfully segregates or separates access to such public accommodation or other entity based on a person’s sex shall grant all persons admission to and the full enjoyment of such public accommodation or other entity consistent with the person’s gender identity.”

The legislation would apply to facilities at any area open to the public, including restaurants, malls, bars, movie theaters and retail stores.

Mr. Baker’s promise to sign the bill marks the end of a yearslong legislative battle over how to accommodate transgender people in Massachusetts.

It comes as North Carolina is embroiled in a legal fight with the Department of Justice over a law regulating public facilities on the basis of biological sex.

In a lawsuit filed against the state, the Justice Department said such regulations violate federal civil rights law and are tantamount to Jim Crow race codes adopted after the Civil War.

President Obama followed that lawsuit with a directive compelling public schools nationwide to permit restroom and locker room access on the basis of gender identity, or risk losing millions in federal education funding. Eleven states last month filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration challenging the constitutionality of the precept.

Conservatives contend such provisions risk the privacy and safety of women and children, giving untrammeled access to intimate facilities on the basis of subjective self-identification.

The Massachusetts bill allows the attorney general to take action against those who assert their gender identity for “an improper purpose.”

Mr. Baker said the bill “supplies the right amount of clarity with respect to the public safety questions that other people have raised.”


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