Massachusetts Gender Identity Law May Be Enforced on Churches, According to Guidance

Massachusetts State House
(Photo : Joe Lewis / Flickr / CC)

A new law set to take effect on October 1 in the state of Massachusetts prohibits discrimination of transgender individuals in all public accommodations, which "could" include churches, according to a guidance issued earlier this month.

According to a 'Gender Identity Guidance' released by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination: "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."

"All persons, regardless of gender identity, shall have the right to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation," the guidance further states.

The guidance does not have any other mention of religious institutions or churches, and does not provide any further specification on what a "secular event" would entail.

The Gender Identity Guidance was regarding the Massachusetts bill S.2407, also called, "An Act relative to transgender anti-discrimination." The bill seeks to amend existing state laws that prohibit discrimination based on sex to also include prohibitions of discrimination based on gender identity.

The portion about churches is found under a section in the guidance detailing the definition of public accommodations, and examples of discrimination in such places. A footnote attached to the sentence specifices: "All charges, including those involving religious institutions or religious exemptions, are reviewed on a case-by-case basis."

The guidance also specifices that gender identity "refers to a person's internal sense of their own gender and its expression," and does not require any surgery or intent to have surgery. To prove that the individual identifies as a different gender than that of their birth sex, "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," the guidance states.

Violation of the law could be punishable with up to one year in jail and $2,500 in fines.

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