Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said on Tuesday he is ready to sign a transgender rights bill if it passes in its current form in the state House of Representatives, the Boston Globe reported.
Baker, a socially liberal Republican, had come under fire this year for refusing to say whether he would approve the bill, which passed the state Senate last month and would ban discrimination against transgender people in public restrooms and other public buildings.
“We’ve certainly listened to a variety of points of view from many sides and have said, from the beginning, that we don’t want people to be discriminated against,” the newspaper quoted Baker as saying. “If the House bill were to pass in its current form, yeah, I would sign it.”
A spokeswoman for Baker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The state House of Representatives is due to vote on the measure on Wednesday. It is expected to pass by a wide margin in the Democratic-controlled chamber.
The House version of the bill differs from the version passed by the Senate in that it directs the state attorney general to issue guidelines to law enforcement on how to handle people who claim transgender rights “for an improper purpose.”
That language is a nod to one of the main concerns of opponents of people using bathrooms or locker rooms that do not correspond with their birth gender – that sexual predators will claim transgender status to access potential victims.
The measure would make liberal-leaning Massachusetts the 18th U.S. state to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.
The issue of transgender rights has become the latest front in America’s culture wars. Some supporters of the Massachusetts measure described it as a rebuke to a law put in place in March in North Carolina prohibiting people from using bathrooms that do not correspond to the sex on their birth certificates.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Matthew Lewis)