Senator Chang-Díaz had the opportunity to introduce S. 735, An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination, before debate began on the Senate floor. Full text of those remarks is pasted below:
Thank you Mr. President. It is a profound honor to be here this afternoon to present this bill, and to ask my colleagues for their support in its passage.
I want to start by acknowledging that, as is the case with any real movement toward progress, I do not stand here alone. There are many people, some here today, some not, who have worked, and sweat, and fought, and wrangled so that we could get this bill to the floor today.
And though this is just one step in a still long, arduous path, I want to thank those who have walked with me in this struggle over the years, and those who came before me, for having committed yourselves so wholly to the cause of justice. In particular, I want to thank the members of the Transgender community who have shared your stories and your lives in order to push this issue forward, I want to thank the advocates from the Freedom Massachusetts Coalition for their dedication and resourcefulness. Senate President Rosenberg for your leadership on this issue, Senator Brownsberger for your diligence in shepherding this through committee, Senator Downing as the first sponsor of this bill, Carl Sciortino for sheparding the Equal Rights Bill in 2011, and all of my colleagues who have co-sponsored or advocated for this bill: thank you for your service!
Public accommodations are not a new topic in our Commonwealth.
Indeed, Massachusetts was the first state to enact a public accommodations law back in 1865, to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race or color in certain public spaces.
It was this law that served as the basis of the first federal public accommodations law—the Civil Rights Act of 1875—and, later on, the most renowned legislation on this matter, the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
We also made history as the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.
In Massachusetts, we are civil rights pioneers by nature. It’s in our cultural DNA.
That’s why it is difficult to fathom how, in 2016, we are still fighting for public accommodations protections and full equality for transgender Bay Staters.
Public accommodations are fundamental to equal rights in our society. They are the foundations upon which our everyday lives are carried out: where we eat when we’re hungry, where we go for help when we’re sick, and where we spend our hard earned money when we shop, play, and travel.
Public accommodations are so integral to how we function in the world that most of us don’t even have to think about their significance.
But anyone who lived through the civil rights movement of the 1950s-60s or who has seen the images from that era knows how fundamental public accommodations are to dignity and equality in America.
We remember the bus boycotts and the lunch counter sit-ins of that era. We remember the segregated hospitals, the drinking fountains, and the restroom facilities.
And surely we remember the arguments that kept those discriminatory practices codified for so many years. Integration is a threat to public health, a threat to public safety, segregationists said.
But the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act rectified these misgivings and over the course of the last five decades we have come to see, not only the error of these arguments, but also the long lasting, and even devastating toll that this kind of discrimination fosters in our society.
In 2011, our Commonwealth heeded these lessons in part by passing the Transgender Equal Rights Law.
Discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, marital status, and in most places gender identity has already been prohibited in our state.
But we are here today because we left that work unfinished.
In excluding the Transgender community from public accommodations protections, we have relegated its members to a second class status. One that I believe, and the supporters of this bill believe, has no place in a just society and in the laws governing our state.
We have witnessed over the last few months a scourge of discriminatory legislation cropping up in the country, most famously in North Carolina.
Make no mistake: at the center of those policies are real people, whose real lives, and real livelihoods are being destroyed by bigotry.
We have also heard, right here in Massachusetts, plenty of the same hateful, discriminatory, transphobic rhetoric that led those states to where they are now.
As a parent, my heart aches for the children who are growing up facing discrimination for who they are, and for the parents and family members of those most affected, who are suffering right along with their loved ones.
It’s time for us to forge a path out of this void.
It’s time for us to catch up to the private sector, where two thirds of Fortune Five Hundred companies already provide protections for their employees based on gender identity, and where, here in the Commonwealth businesses ranging from the Red Sox to General Electric, Harvard Pilgrim to JP Licks, endorse these protections for their patrons and employees.
It’s time for us to join the 17 other states and the District of Columbia in protecting transgender residents from discrimination in all our public places.
And it’s time for the Commonwealth to have the backs of the more than 200 cities, including 14 cities and towns of our own here in Massachusetts, who have taken a stand for transgender rights by passing and implementing local ordinances.
No one deserves to be discriminated against for who they are. And it’s our duty as legislators to ensure that those who face discrimination have recourse.
This bill closes the last door to open to discrimination against transgender people in our state.
The Transgender community needs these protections, the business community wants these protections, and the legislature has a responsibility to provide these protections.
I look forward to today’s debate and to pushing Transgender Rights in our Commonwealth one step closer to finality.