Policymakers in states across the country have filed nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ bills in the current legislative session, according to the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth.
In an annual report published Thursday, the commission urged Massachusetts to both stand up against that wave and to “continuously address its own negligence towards ensuring comprehensive care for LGBTQ youth.”
"Across the country, states are legislating discrimination, dehumanization, terrorization, and the erasure of millions of queer, gender-expansive, and transgender youth, as well as their caregivers, providers, and educators," commission co-chair Noemi Uribe said at a State House event marking the report's release. "As the state with the only commission on LGBTQ youth in the country, we believe it is our responsibility to be the lighthouse for LGBTQ youth, to uplift underserved populations across the commonwealth."
The commission’s nearly 300-page report makes recommendations to 21 agencies and officials across state government, a series of actions it says are “intended to amplify, not replace, the voices of the most marginalized young people in our communities, especially Black, brown, Indigenous, immigrant, disabled, neurodivergent, transgender, intersex, and gender expansive youth, as well as those in foster care, experiencing homelessness, are incarcerated, or have experienced sexual exploitation.”
The recommendations cover a wide range of topics including health care, education, ending homelessness, inclusive provision of services, environmental justice and protecting the welfare of LGBTQ children.
Several of the commission's recommendations call on lawmakers and Gov. Maura Healey, who was elected last year as the country’s first openly lesbian governor, to pass legislation pending on Beacon Hill. Bills highlighted in the report include:
- A sexual health education bill that supporters, who have been pushing lawmakers to pass it for years, refer to as the Healthy Youth Act. The bill, passed multiple times before by the state Senate but not the House, would require schools that teach sex education to use medically accurate and age-appropriate curriculum that features LGBTQ-inclusive material and information on consent.
- A bill allowing people to change the gender designation on birth certificates to a nonbinary "X" without requiring medical documentation, a court order or proof of name change.
- Changes to the state plumbing code that would allow construction of multi-stall, all-gender bathrooms.
- A Bill of Rights for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness. The report says LGBTQ youth are more likely to experience homelessness, and the bill articulates rights including to move freely in public spaces, to be treated equitably by government agencies, and to receive care in emergencies.
- Measures improving collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data in correctional settings. That includes a bill that would collect data on LGBTQ prisoners held in restrictive housing, and another that would include sexual orientation and gender identity in juvenile justice data collection.
“In the face of everything that’s happening across the nation, we deserve to be held accountable here, thanks to the LGBTQ Youth Commission,” Sen. Jo Comerford, a member of the Legislature’s LGBTQ caucus, said during the event. “We deserve to go further, not only as a defense to what’s happening in the rest of the nation, but really as a promise for what must happen when there is true, true, true LGBTQ justice in our families, in our schools, our state agencies and the Legislature.”
Sen. Julian Cyr, another caucus member and former chair of the LGBTQ Youth Commission, said Massachusetts "absolutely cannot rest on our laurels.”
“There is this moment where our community, where queer people, are increasingly taking the full reins of our power to demand justice for our people and our community, and we’re doing that,” Cyr said. “And we need to do that here in Massachusetts.”