Thursday, September 08, 2016

Massachusetts Agency Says Transgender Non-Discrimination Can Apply To Some Church Events

Massachusetts Senate Bill 2407, banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations, becomes effective October 1. The bill also requires public accommodations to allow restroom use consistent with a person's gender identity.  Last week (Sept. 1), the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination released its Gender Identity Guidance (full text) setting out the Commission's interpretation of the new law. The Guidance suggests that in some situations, the anti-discrimination ban can apply to churches:
Under G.L. c. 272, § 98, places of public accommodation may not discriminate against, or restrict a person from services because of that person’s gender identity. For example, a hotel or motel may not refuse to book a room for a person because of the person’s gender identity. 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 adds in a footnote: "All charges, including those involving religious institutions or religious exemptions, are reviewed on a case-by-case basis." The Guidance also provides: "In the limited circumstances where it is necessary, an individual’s gender identity may be demonstrated by any evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as a part of the person’s core identity."  Daily Caller reports on the Guidance.