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Seven members of Congress support transgender bill

Seven members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation have written a letter to House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg urging passage in the next week of a bill protecting transgender people from discrimination in restaurants, malls, and other public accommodations.

“As the federal delegation works hard in Washington to strengthen and expand civil rights protections across the country, it is critical we have the example of our home state at our backs,” the letter reads.

But the writers, including US Senator Edward J. Markey and US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, seem unlikely to get their way.


Rosenberg has urged passage of the public accommodations legislation. But with the Legislature set to break for the holidays next week, DeLeo has indicated the House is focused on amending the state’s public records and solar power production laws.

DeLeo has suggested he is sympathetic to transgender activists but has not publicly declared a position on the bill. Governor Charlie Baker has dodged questions about the measure, saying the “devil is always in the details.”

Baker voiced opposition to a similar measure during his unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 2010, referring to it as a “bathroom bill.” The phrase evoked concerns about men who identify as women using female bathrooms — a concern that recently sank an anti-discrimination ordinance in Houston.

The lawmakers’ letter, also signed by US Representatives Niki Tsongas, Katherine M. Clark, William R. Keating, Seth Moulton, and James P. McGovern, turned that concern on its head, saying “none of our transgender neighbors” should be “harassed in public restrooms because of who they are.”

The letter also evoked the state’s history on the “vanguard” of civil rights, calling Massachusetts home to “abolitionists, suffragists, health care reformers, and the architects of the marriage equality movement.”

David Scharfenberg can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @dscharfGlobe