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It’s hard to believe that many people think the law of the land already protects LGBTQ people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In reality, not only are there no federal protections regarding employment discrimination for the LGBTQ community, only 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Without these crucial protections, the transgender community remains especially vulnerable to discrimination. According to a national survey on transgender discrimination, 90% of the respondents reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment, or discrimination on the job, or took actions like hiding their transgender identity to avoid it. The report also noted that an alarming 47% responded that they had either been fired, not hired, or denied a promotion because of being transgender or gender nonconforming. Additionally, 71% attempted to avoid discrimination by hiding their gender identity or delaying gender transition.

So it’s no small achievement that the Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Act went into effect on July 1, 2012. This monumental victory was only possible because of the work of countless advocates in Massachusetts, like the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) worked tirelessly to get this bill put into effect after it was first introduced five years ago.

According to Gunner Scott, Executive Director of MTPC, the bill has already made a difference in the lives of Massachusetts’ transgender community. Since its passage, discrimination complaints have almost quadrupled. This mirrors the trend for the 165 cities and counties in the country that have passed non-discrimination ordinances that include gender identity.  Complaints tend to rise following implementation of non-discrimination policies because individuals feel empowered and now have a mechanism to challenge unfair workplace discrimination.

We applaud this tremendous victory for the residents of Massachusetts and congratulate all of those individuals who fought to get this law passed.  We hope that the continued passage of state protections for the LGBTQ community will urge the federal government to pass similar legislation.

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