by Michael DiFranza, MPA student
Massachusetts has long been ahead of the curve in providing rights and protections for LGBT people compared to other states. In 2004 Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage. Recently several new laws have been passed to extend protections in the state.
This April, MA legislature banned ‘ex-gay’ conversion therapy for youths. Conversion therapy is a practice that is aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This practice is widely rejected by most major medical and psychological institutions like the World Health Organization, the American Psychological Association, and the American Medical Association. Conversion therapy is dangerous, because it can be a psychologically traumatic experience for LGBT youths. This bill passed with bipartisan support and went into effect on April 8th.
On April 25th the MA legislature passed a bill that legally allows individuals to change the sex designation on their birth record. Individuals are not limited to “female” and “male,” but are also given the option to designate as “X,” which would indicate that they do not identify as the other two options; they are another gender, or an undesignated gender. There is no requirement for health-care and medical-related documentation or a proof of name change.
Some states, such as Alabama, allow you to change your sex designation on your birth certificate only after you under-go sex reassignment surgery and legally change your name. The individual, or their guardian, if they are a minor, must provide an affidavit under the penalty of perjury that the person is changing their designation to conform to their gender identity, and not for fraudulent reasons.
Driver’s licenses, learners permits, ID cards, and liquor licenses will now reflect changes in sex designation, with the “X” designation now an option on these forms of ID in Massachusetts. Plans are being put in place to change all forms of documentation issued by state agencies to include the “X” designation for gender. This bill will take effect on January 1, 2020.
In 2016, MA Ballot Question 3 upheld civil rights protections for LGBT people. This prohibited discrimination based on gender identity. Massachusetts had to provide these protections because currently federal civil rights laws do not. Most of the states in the U.S. do not extend protections to transgendered people. This means in large portions of the U.S. someone can be fired from a job, evicted from a home, or refused service at a business based on their gender identity. Extending protections at the federal level will be critical in preventing discrimination against LGBT groups in the future. Until then state level protections must become more comprehensive in order to compensate for the lack of federal protections.
 “HILLARY GOODRIDGE & Others vs. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH & Another.” GOODRIDGE vs. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH, 440 Mass. 309, 2003, masscases.com/cases/sjc/440/440mass309.html.
 Johnson, Chris. “Massachusetts Becomes 16th State to Ban ‘Ex-Gay’ Therapy for Youth.” Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights, 8 Apr. 2019, www.washingtonblade.com/2019/04/08/massachusetts-becomes-16th-state-to-ban-ex-gay-therapy-for-youth/.
 Ala. Code § 22-9A-19(d) (2004).
 “Bill S.2213 An Act Relative to Gender Identity on Massachusetts Identification.” Bill S.2213, 25 Apr. 2019, malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2213.
 Galivn, William Francis. “2018 Information For Voters.” Elections: 2018 Information For Voters, 2019, www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele18/ballot_questions_18/quest_3.htm.
 Human Rights Campaign. “State Maps of Laws and Policies.” Human Rights Campaign, 2019, www.hrc.org/state-maps