U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy has two words for Gov. Charlie Baker if and when a transgender accommodations bill get through the House and comes to his desk: "Sign it."
But first, House leaders have to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Speaker Robert DeLeo supports the bill, but would prefer to have enough votes in his chamber to potentially override any veto from Baker. Since the governor hasn't really said one way or the other whether he'll use his veto pen if the legislation isn't to his liking, that means DeLeo needs to soften the blow for moderate members who could be politically harmed by a socially progressive vote like transgender accommodations in an election year.
The version of the bill that emerged from the House side of the Judiciary Committee last week contains language that instructs law enforcement to lay out plans for penalties for criminals who abuse access rights and it seeks to inform businesses of the expectations for complying with the new law.
In Baker's defense, he has repeatedly said that he opposes any discrimination against transgender people in the Commonwealth, and Kennedy said Baker deserves credit for his long history of supporting LGBT issues.
Baker has said that "people should use the restroom facility they feel comfortable using," according to the State House News Service.
But on this particular LGBT issue, Kennedy wants Baker to be more decisive.
"I do think though, that when it comes to this issue—and I think advocates have made their voices very clear on this—it is again, about the fundamental issue that the law should apply to everybody equally," Kennedy said.
Kennedy applauded the bill's passage through the Senate Thursday, where it won approval with 33 affirmative votes against four dissents. A firm proponent of similar legislation on the federal level, Kennedy said he is glad to see the bill win in the Senate and build momentum in the House.
Kennedy said he is inclined to lean towards favoring the Senate's version of the bill.
Beacon Hill, like Capitol Hill, Kennedy said, has to have the ability to hash out final details of legislation that will allow it to pass muster in their respective chamber, Kennedy said.
"And if this is what it takes in order to have that debate and get it through the process, then I think, again, the important thing from my perspective is to see movement on it," Kennedy said.
As for opponents of the bill who say it will detract from the privacy rights of others sharing accommodations with transgender people, Kennedy said the law must ensure equal treatment to all citizens.
"When it comes to civil rights, those aren't issues that we compromise on," Kennedy said.
"That emotional response that people are tapping into, on the one hand is understandable, but I think, though, if you look at the law, the bill does nothing to undermine the level of privacy that is currently afforded to people in public restrooms," Kennedy said.