Governor Deval Patrick today quietly issued an executive order banning discrimination against transgender workers in state government, a move that advocates view as a first step toward passing statewide legislation.
Patrick signed the order in a private ceremony in his office that was attended by advocates and several transgender state employees. He did not list the event on his public schedule or send out a press release about the executive order.
Advocates said the order, which adds “gender expression and identity” to the state’s official rules banning discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, and other characteristics, would send a powerful message.
“It opens up to the community the fact that transgender people need to be hired and treated properly,” said Diane DeLap, a transgender worker in the state’s Division of Workforce Development, who attended today's ceremony.
Advocates have been pushing the state to pass a similar measure in the Legislature that would ban discrimination against transgender workers in housing, public accommodations, and private sector workplaces.
Opponents have derided that measure as “the bathroom bill,” asserting it would allow the sexes to commingle in public bathrooms. Supporters have said that label is offensive, and the measure would not sanction coed bathrooms.
Patrick has supported the bill, and advocates today expressed hope that his executive order would spur the Legislature to act.
“If we’ve got 100 yards to go, this gets us to the 25-yard line,” said Beth I. Z. Boland, a former president of the Women’s Bar Association, and supporter of the bill.
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