Governor Charlie Baker, under increasing pressure to take a stand on a transgender rights bill, sent his strongest signals yet Thursday that he won’t veto the legislation should it reach his desk.
Pressed by WGBH-FM co-host Jim Braude , Baker, a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage, said, “I take tremendous pride in the fact that on many of these issues I’ve been on what I would describe as the right side of history.”
For months, Baker has refused to say where he stands on the controversial bill that would prohibit discrimination against transgender people in restaurants, malls, and other public accommodations.
Last week, he was booed at a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender networking event by activists who want him to support the bill. And two weeks ago, an LGBT business group rescinded its invitation to honor Baker at its gala, in part because of his failure to take a stand on the legislation.
Baker did not take a position on the bill Thursday, instead repeating that he thinks it’s best to wait for the Legislature to do its work and offered what has become his frequent refrain: “I don’t think we should discriminate against anybody.”
But his comments on the radio coupled with a statement from his spokeswoman painted a picture of a politician unlikely to veto the legislation.
Thursday morning, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said on TV that transgender people ought to be able to use whatever bathroom they feel is appropriate, apparently knocking a law in North Carolina that mandates people can use only the bathroom that matches the sex stated on their birth certificate.
Asked what Baker, a Republican, thought of Trump’s remarks on NBC, a spokeswoman for the governor replied in an e-mail.
“The governor supports 2011 transgender protections and believes no one should be discriminated against based on their gender identity, and looks forward to reviewing a bill should the Legislature act,” Lizzy Guyton said, echoing previous administration statements.
She added: “Governor Baker believes people should use the restroom facility they feel comfortable using.”
The campaign manager of Freedom Massachusetts, the main advocacy group supporting the transgender rights bill, lauded Baker’s comments in a statement late Thursday.
“We applaud Governor Baker for opposing discrimination and, as part of that, supporting the ability of transgender people to use the restrooms that match who they are,” Carly Burton said. “He has been on the right side of history on other important LGBT issues, and we hope he’ll do the same with the transgender public accommodations bill by signing it into law. We urge the Legislature to move quickly to send the bill to Governor Baker’s desk.”
The two top legislative leaders in Massachusetts, both Democrats, support the bill, and the Senate is poised to take up the legislation in May.
Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg has said there is very strong support for the measure in his chamber.
In a recent appearance on WBZ-TV, Speaker Robert A. DeLeo affirmed he thinks it’s “a good piece of legislation” and “should pass.” He indicated he is working to round up enough votes for the bill to override a possible gubernatorial veto — something that would require a two-thirds vote of the members present in the 160-seat chamber.
In his radio appearance Thursday, Baker offered other hints of what his position on the bill might eventually be.
Speaking on “Boston Public Radio” to Braude and co-host Margery Eagan, Baker recalled what he told the networking event, hosted by Boston Spirit magazine, where he was booed.
“One of the things that I said to the folks at that Boston Spirit event was that they should continue to make their case,” he said.
“I mean, the folks that I’ve met with and the folks that the people on my team have met with are really compelling. And I said that. They’re compelling, they’re affecting, and their stories are moving. And I said they should continue to make their case because,” he said, “I believe it’s a strong one.”