By Andrew Firestone
Thursday, January 19, saw a host of state politicians and activists rally around Rep. Carl Sciortino (D – Somerville), as he acted as master of ceremonies for the celebratory signing of a bill he wrote and sponsored, “An Act Relative to Gender Identity” by Gov. Deval Patrick.
The law was signed around noon in the Senate Reading room, which was the Senate Chamber in years past. Joining the throng of politicians that turned out to the event, including Rep. Denise Provost of Somerville and Sen. Jamie Eldridge of Acton were State Auditor Suzanne Bump, formerly a state legislator, Kara Suffrendi, the Executive Director of Mass Equality, and activist Gunner Scott of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.
Sciortino has been working to get the law passed since 2007, and finally succeeded in November of 2011. Qualifying the process had a “rollercoaster feel,” Sciortino was in high spirits when he called to the podium the Governor, whom he called “a hero and a legend on behalf of LGBT equality.”
Patrick was in full swing, congratulating Sciortino and the other activists for getting the job done.
“This is what comes from turning to each other, rather than on each other,” said the Governor. “This is about what happens when people come together in common cause, for their own sake and for the sake of a principle, a very simple one, which is that people should come before their governments as equals. I am proud of you, and proud to be with you today.”
Patrick lauded the many members present from both chambers of the house, including Reps. Robert DeLeo and Byron Rushing and Senators Sonia Chiang-Diaz and Benjamin Downing for their “ act of political courage.” The bill classifies discrimination against transgender people as a hate crime under state guidelines, and protects transgender people against discrimination in housing, employment, credit and education.
“I sign this bill as a matter of conscience,” said Patrick. No individual should face discrimination because of who they are. For that reason, this legislation is an achievement, not only for transgender people, but for all of those who stand up for and care about respect for basic human dignity.”
He echoed many of the speakers that day, calling the movement an “example for what it means when people decide to make advocacy personal, when they decide that you do in fact have all the power you need to make all the change you want if you work together,” and a “powerful reminder for all those who work for you in public service.”
Also speaking was the second sponsor of the bill, Rep. Rushing of Boston, who spoke on the significance of the law, and its role in personal politics.
“When you come here, when anyone who has been discriminated, deprived of their rights in our society, when you come and demand those rights, you of course demanding those rights because you don’t have them. You were born with these rights, you have always had these rights,” said Rushing.
“What you come to government to do is to protect these rights, to acknowledge those rights, and that is the great work to do.”
Chiang-Diaz of Roxbury spoke of the inspiration the movement inspired. “We’ve refined our own voices, and we’ve re-remembered how to lead, and not just govern and what’s going to fly well in our district, but by what we believe and what we can convince others is just.”