The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday passed its version of a bill granting new protections to transgender individuals.
The bill passed 33-4. Republican Sens. Bruce Tarr, Ryan Fattman, Vinny deMacedo and Donald Humason voted against the bill, according to the State House News Service.
The vote comes after a monthslong battle over the legislation, which would outlaw discrimination against transgender people in public places, among them parks, restaurants and public bathrooms. A 2011 state law adding protections for transgender people did not include language on public accommodations.
The issue of bathroom use by the transgender population has become a national political flashpoint, with presidential candidates weighing in and North Carolina passing a law that restricts access to bathrooms to birth gender, rather than identity. The law has been challenged by the U.S. Justice Department and sparked protests and tourist and economic boycotts.
In a prepared statement on Thursday, Kasey Suffredini, co-chair of Freedom Massachusetts, a coalition that has argued in favor of the bill, called Thursday's vote “historic.”
The bill’s passage “sends a message the transgender community has longed for decades to hear – that we are truly welcome and valued in our Commonwealth,” Suffredini said. “We urge the House to swiftly bring this bill to a vote and bring it one step closer to the governor’s desk and becoming law. Massachusetts is ready.”