U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) has been dodging questions about his stance on the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA, S811). ENDA would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
But at a private company function in Massachusetts this week another of Senator Brown’s non-answers on ENDA revealed something valuable: his apparent support for including transgender people in the Massachusetts state anti-discrimination law.
During a question and answer session an employee who identified as a veteran, a Republican and transgender initiated the following exchange. This exchange was independently recounted to me by more than one person who heard it first-hand.
Employee: What is your position on an inclusive ENDA policy to provide support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees?
Scott Brown: Well we’ve already done it here in Massachusetts. I believe in states rights.
Employee: Actually, not for transgender. That’s still on the table.
Scott Brown: The states should take care of it, I believe in states rights.
Clearly Sen. Brown thought that Massachusetts already had a fully inclusive anti-discrimination law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. The employee was of course correct about Massachusetts state law not yet prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression.
But Sen. Brown’s mistake is perhaps an honest one since the Transgender Rights Bill (H.502/S.764) was under consideration by the Massachusetts legislature in 2010 when he was still in the state senate. He wouldn’t be the first person to assume that a Democratically-controlled legislature would have passed that bill by now.
Sen. Brown’s phrasing “we’ve already done it” indicates ownership of what he thought had already been accomplished. Now that he knows that what he thought had been accomplished on his watch in the Massachusetts legislature actually remains undone, Senator Brown should contact his former colleagues in the Massachusetts State House to see how he can facilitate the passage of the Transgender Rights Bill.
He owes it to himself and to his constituents to see this through. Otherwise, his words “the states should take care of it” come off as nothing more than a convenient way for him to pass the buck.
Cross-posted at Blue Mass Group.