Transgender people in Massachusetts can’t be prohibited from using public restrooms and changing rooms on the basis of their anatomical sex, including in churches, according to guidance on a new anti-discrimination law in the state.
“This legislation affirms the Commission’s long-standing recognition of gender identity rights previously enforced through sex discrimination claims,” the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination says in a document produced Sept. 1.
On Oct. 1, “all persons, regardless of gender identity, shall have the right to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation.”
Public accommodations are defined as “any place, whether licensed or unlicensed, which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public,” the agency said.
The guidance notes that “any place of public accommodation that lawfully separates access to a place or portion thereof based on a person’s sex, shall grant admission to that place, and the full enjoyment of that place or portion thereof, consistent with the person’s gender identity.”
“This means that a movie theater that has restrooms designated as ‘Men’s Restroom’ and ‘Women’s Restroom’ must allow its patrons to use the restroom which is consistent with their gender identity. A health club with locker rooms designated as male and female must grant all persons full enjoyment of the locker room consistent with their gender identity. A public swimming pool with changing rooms designated male and female must allow the public to use the changing room consistent with their gender identity.”
The guidance suggests that Massachusetts may force churches to comply with the new legislation.
“Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public,” the guidance notes.
The guidance does not specify what criteria the government would use to determine whether or not church events are considered “secular.”