The House and Senate on Thursday enacted a controversial transgender public accommodations bill, sending it to Governor Charlie Baker, who is seen as likely to sign it into law.
The legislation would allow people to use the restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms that match their gender identity, and would protect transgender people from discrimination in museums, malls, libraries, restaurants, and other public accommodations.
Supporters frame it as a huge leap forward in a state long at the forefront of civil rights.
“This is another major victory here in Massachusetts for antidiscrimination policy,” said Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat. “We have in our constitution the original equal protection clause, which is also in our federal Constitution. So it all starts here, doing the right thing whenever we see individuals not being treated fairly under the law.”
The transgender bill is controversial, in part, because opponents worry that male sexual predators, pretending to be transgender women, could enter women’s locker rooms.
But legislators who have studied the issue say those concerns are unfounded and not borne out by the almost 20 states that already have public accommodations protections for transgender people.
They also point to language in the bill that would require the attorney general to issue guidance on when and how action can be taken against people who assert gender identity for “an improper purpose.”
Baker, a Republican, backed an earlier version of the bill, which lawyers say is similar to the version on his desk. A spokeswoman has said he’ll closely study the legislation that lawmakers have sent him.