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Mass. Passes Transgender Rights Bill

Essdras M Suarez/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(BOSTON) -- A bill that protects transgender people in Massachusetts from discrimination and hate crimes has been passed in both houses of the state legislature. It's not yet known exactly when Gov. Deval Patrick, who supports the bill, will sign it.

The bill amends the state's nondiscrimination statute and existing hate crime laws to include gender identity and expression. Thirteen other states and Washington, D.C., have passed similar bills.

"Transgender individuals in Massachusetts face unacceptably high levels of violence and discrimination in their daily lives," said state Rep. Carl Sciortino Jr., a Medford Democrat who co-sponsored the bill. "This bill will extend our statutory civil rights and hate crime protections to the transgender community."

The bill, which was first filed in 2007, drew strong opposition from such groups as the Massachusetts Family Institute -- which "strongly opposes any efforts by political activists to normalize homosexual behavior and all attempts to equate homosexuality with immutable characteristics such as skin color," according to its website.

Roughly 33,000 people in Massachusetts identify themselves as transgender, according to an April 2011 study by the Williams Institute.

A 2009 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 97 percent of transgender people reported they were harassed or mistreated at work because of their gender identity or expression. And 47 percent reported they were denied a job or promotion or fired.

Fifteen percent of transgender people reported living on $10,000 or less per year and 19 percent said they have been homeless, according to the survey.

Hate crime statistics suggest transgender people are more likely to be victims of violence than other members of the LGBT community.

The vote came in the middle of Transgender Awareness Week, a statewide event hosted by the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. The week closes Nov. 20 with Transgender Day of Remembrance -- a memorial to victims of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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