Edited 11:43pm EST 11.18.2011

BOSTON, November 17, 2011 ( – The Massachusetts legislature has passed a bill that elevates cross-dressing or transgendered individuals to a protected class, and grants universal access to sex-segregated areas such as bathrooms based on personal “gender identity or expression.”

The measure, known as the “Transgender Equal Rights Bill” (H. 502 in the House and S. 764 in the Senate) passed the upper chamber on Wednesday in a voice vote. It’s unclear when the bill will receive final approval votes and be signed into law by Democrat Gov. Deval Patrick, a strong gay rights supporter.

The bill inserts “gender identity” as a protected class under the state’s hate crime law, and also makes it so that a school or other business would be violating the law if it rejected an applicant because he or she was a crossdresser.

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The pro-family activist group Mass Resistance said the bill would have far-reaching negative effects for traditional values in the public square, most notably in schools.

“Imagine finding that your day-care provider, second-grade teacher, waiter, school bus driver, store clerk, etc. is blatantly a man wearing a skirt and lipstick, possibly with hormone-enhanced breasts,” wrote the group on its website regarding H. 502. “Under this bill it would be illegal for any employer (or school principal) to decide for himself whether this is proper, or objectionable, or immoral.  You would have no choice: the state will have decided for you.”

The measure also decrees that the right to “gender identity and expression” is a “civil right.” A provision stating that all “sex-segregated facilities … shall grant persons admission to and the full enjoyment of such facilities … consistent with their gender identity or expression” was removed from the measure at the last minute.

However, Mass Resistance suggests that the purpose of the missing language, which would have allowed cross-dressing persons to enter the bathroom of their choice, is met by other provisions of the bill.

“Although the public accomodation statutes were taken out, there was almost a complete overlap with the statutes left in the bill,” said the group. “For example, by including the scope of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) all businesses, public accommodations, locker rooms, and rest rooms are clearly affected—probably even to a greater extent than under the public accommodation laws.”

Those who violate the non-discrimination rules face up to a $2,500 fine and a year in prison.

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This article was corrected to note that the “bathroom” language was removed from the bill, although its effects are believed to remain.