The courts can handle cases of discrimination involving transgender individuals, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday.
His statements came as state lawmakers consider a bill that would extend protections for transgender people in public places. Advocates have said the law would close a gap in anti-discrimination law, while opponents have said they are concerned about the way the bill might force people to share bathrooms and locker rooms with transgender people.
“I've met with folks who've told me stories about individual incidents, but as I said, I don't believe anybody should be discriminated against, and if anybody is we have a court system in Massachusetts that I believe can stand up for them," Baker told reporters, according to the State House News Service. "I'm proud of Massachusetts's track record on all issues associated with discrimination and human rights, and I don't believe anybody should be discriminated against, and I think the Commonwealth has a sterling record on these issues."
In early October, advocates and opponents of the bill gave testimony at the State House, among them transgender youth and parents of trans children. Speaking in favor of the bill at the hearing were Attorney General Maura Healey, Police Commissioner William Evans and District Attorney Dan Conley. Senate President Stanley Rosenberg has also said he supports the bill.
The deadline to get bills on the governor's desk this legislative session is Wednesday, Nov. 18.
Baker’s statements to the media came on Tuesday as his administration also announced changes to a government contracting program that aimed to boost partnerships with businesses owned by LGBTQ people, as well as veterans and people with disabilities.
“We are committed to ensuring diversity as the state engages business suppliers and contractors and are excited about this opportunity to include LGBT, disability and veteran business owners in the state’s network and procurement chain,” Baker said in a statement.
The changes would update the state’s existing Supplier Diversity Program, which already sought to increase the number of government contracts with women-and minority-owned businesses by setting benchmarks for the number of deals with companies in those categories.
The state would now partner with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to use the group’s LGBTQ business certification process, Baker said.
The NGLCC heralded the first-in-the-U.S. collaboration.
“LGBT-inclusive supplier diversity means that there will be greater LGBT business visibility across Massachusetts. Economic visibility, just like social visibility, is essential in building a diverse and inclusive society,” NGLCC President Justin Nelson said in a statement. “Governor Baker’s administration recognizes what over 1/3 of the Fortune 500 has already — including opportunities for all businesses, including those owned by LGBT people is good for business.”