The Beacon Hill bill that lets people choose public restrooms based on gender identity passed the House 116-36 last night — with eight Republicans giving it a veto-proof margin — and now goes to a conference committee to work out differences with the Senate’s version of the bill.
A socially conservative Democratic state rep who planned to vote against the bill told Boston Herald Radio yesterday her objections were rooted in her concerns for the safety of women and children.
“It’s a real safety issue,” state Rep. Colleen Garry (D-Dracut) told “Morning Meeting” hosts Hillary Chabot and Tom Shattuck.
“I don’t believe that transgendered individuals are dangerous, but it is those pedophiles who will use this as cover.”
The bill, which Gov. Charlie Baker has signaled he is likely to sign, would ban discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations such as hotels, restaurants and malls.
However, echoing a common concern she shares with some Republicans, Garry said she worries the bill would give cover for people with malicious intentions to access public bathrooms, locker rooms and other private locations.
With access to these places protected by law, Garry says, law enforcement might be reticent to challenge suspicious persons entering women’s bathrooms and dressing rooms.
“I’ve talked to people in law enforcement in my district,” she said. “I’ve asked them point-blank: ‘Are you going to touch this with a 10-foot pole? If somebody’s in the bathroom and somebody believes that they shouldn’t be there, are you going to question them at all?’ And they said ‘absolutely not.’ ”
Similar protections around public accommodations have passed in 17 states, including California, Nevada and New Jersey. However, Garry said that the lack of cases of people committing crimes while posing as transgendered in those states doesn’t mean that it can’t happen here.
“They’ll say that it hasn’t happened yet,” Garry said.
“But there’s always a first time, and I don’t want to be the one talking to a parent after it happens. Pedophiles are fast at learning tricks to get away with things. I believe that at some point it’s going to happen.”
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