Patrick signed the order in a private ceremony in his office attended by advocates and several transgender state employees. He did not list the event on his public schedule or send out a press release afterward.
The order expands the state’s current civil rights policy by forbidding state government and its contractors from discriminating on the basis of “gender identity or expression.’’ The state already forbids discrimination based on a host of other characteristics, including race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, and religion.
"It’s really this point about leading by example," he said following an unrelated event late yesterday. "We have so much talent in this Commonwealth, and it resides in every single corner and in every single community, and we want to make as clear as possible that we welcome that talent and its contributions."
He said he was not trying to avoid questions about the controversial subject by signing the order in a private ceremony. "You’re kidding, right?" Patrick said.
Patrick's order is similar to former New York Gov. David Paterson's December 2009 executive order prohibiting state agencies from discriminating against any individual on the basis of gender identity and expression.
And just like in the Empire State, statewide transgender protections have been stalled in the Massachusetts legislature for years. Opponents have slammed the measure as "the bathroom bill," claiming it would allow men to enter women’s bathrooms. Patrick supports the bill.
Twelve states and the District of Columbia have broad laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender expression and/or identity, according to gay and transgender rights groups. More than 100 cities and counties across the country also provide similar legal protections.