BOSTON (AP) – Mayor Marty Walsh says a transgender pride flag raised Monday over Boston City Hall plaza will continue to fly until everyone is equal under the law in Massachusetts.
The Democratic mayor and other elected officials joined activists in raising the flag of blue, pink, and white horizontal stripes as state lawmakers continue to weigh a bill that would extend protections to transgender individuals in public places.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker hasn’t said whether he would sign the measure, which would expand a 2011 state law banning discrimination against transgender people in the workplace and housing by also prohibiting discrimination in restaurants, malls and other public accommodations, including restrooms or locker rooms.
The bill would allow transgender people to use public accommodations corresponding to their gender identity.
“We raise the trans pride flag for those who cannot be here today, for those who have been taken from us due to anti-trans violence,” said Mason Dunn, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.
Dunn said the ceremony marked the first time a trans pride flag has been raised in Massachusetts. Supporters said Boston is only the fourth city in the country to fly the flag.
Boston has had a public accommodations law for transgender individuals since 2002, Walsh said, and he wants those same protections put in place statewide.
“We’ve proven there’s nothing to fear from being inclusive,” the mayor said. “Quite the opposite. We are safer, we are stronger when everyone enjoys the same protections.”
Massachusetts House leaders last week unveiled a revised version of the bill, adding language that could facilitate legal action against anyone who makes an “improper” claim of gender identity. The redrafted bill would allow the attorney general to provide “guidance or regulations” to law enforcement about legal action against “any person who asserts gender identity for an improper purpose.”
Opponents have cited fears that a male sexual predator could falsely claim to identify as a female to gain access to a women’s bathroom or locker room. And the Massachusetts Family Institute has dismissed the House redraft saying it offers no protections to women and children who don’t want to be eyed by or exposed to naked men in locker rooms.
Supporters argue such fears are unfounded.
Baker told reporters Monday that he “appreciated some of the clarity that was provided by the House version.”
“This is an important issue and as we’ve said before we’ll look forward to reviewing whatever makes it through the process,” he added.
Democratic Senate President Stan Rosenberg said the Senate will debate the House bill May 12.
“We welcome the diversity of the human race here in Massachusetts,” Rosenberg said at the flag-raising ceremony.