By Shannon Chaffers ’18, Opinions Editor
Some argue the law forcing transgender people in North Carolina to use the bathroom that matches the sex on their birth certificates was a step back for civil rights in America. Therefore, many Massachusetts residents view a new bill that passed the state Senate as a breath of fresh air.
On May 12, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill regarding the rights of transgender people. According to freedommassachusetts.org, this bill would extend non-discrimination policies in public accommodations such as restaurants, malls, and banks. In addition, it would protect people from discrimination because of their gender identity.
According to the Boston Globe, the bill, which passed the state Senate by a count of 33-4, would allow transgender people to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. If the bill is signed into law, Massachusetts would join seventeen other states with similar anti-discrimination laws.
The vote came amidst national controversy surrounding transgender people’s rights. The bill passed the Massachusetts Senate the day before President Barack Obama issued a decree urging public schools to allow their students to access to the bathrooms that match their gender identity.
The high school has taken steps of its own to create a safe environment for the LGBTQ+ community in Wellesley. Last year, the Student Congress advocated for the establishment of a gender neutral bathroom at the high school. Currently situated on the first floor of the high school, the bathroom is open to any gender. It provides a safe space for those uncomfortable using the men’s or women’s bathroom for any reason.
“The bathroom creates an environment of acceptance and safety for every member of the WHS community,” said Savitri Fouda ’17, president of Student Congress.
Lexie Lehmann ’16 first brought the idea to Student Congress last year, “and with the help of Student Congress, she was able to advocate for her idea to the administration,” said Fouda. “The administration seemed to like the idea and we did not have a lot of problems creating the bathrooms,” she added.
Fouda understands the role Student Congress has in creating a safe space at the high school. “I believe it is important to continue advocating for the rights of all WHS students because our high school is, first and foremost, a place for learning,” she said. “It is impossible for individuals to wholeheartedly proceed in that undertaking without everyone feeling safe and comfortable.”
Massachusetts could join many public institutions in signing this bill, which the House of Representatives will debate and vote on in the coming months. If passed, it will reach Governor Charlie Baker’s desk, at which point he can sign the bill into law. Until then, the future of the rights of transgender people in Massachusetts remains cloudy.