Pride Month: Celebrating Wins and Continuing the Fight for Justice

June is here which means it is time to celebrate Pride in Somerville, Cambridge, and around the world! Recently I had the pleasure of celebrating the 20th anniversary of marriage equality in Massachusetts at Cambridge City Hall and had the honor of meeting the state’s first same sex marriage license recipients, Marcia and Susan! As you may know, Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003, and more recently, we in the legislature have taken numerous steps to support the LGBTQ+ community. We recently passed a ban on "conversion therapy" for minors. We passed first-in-the-nation legislation requiring licensed elder service providers to complete comprehensive LGBTQ+ care training. We also successfully advocated for a nonbinary gender marker on state licenses and IDs, and most recently passed legislation into law that will allow minors to access PrEP.

Despite this progress so much work remains to achieve full LGBTQ+ equality. That's why I'd like to take this opportunity to let you know about some of our LGBTQ+ focused advocacy for the remaining three months of formal legislative session. Read on for a legislative agenda that empowers the LGBTQIA+ community, those living with HIV/AIDS, and those who are vulnerable to healthcare access inequities.

My Top Two Priorities

H.544/S.268, An Act Relative to Healthy Youth (Sponsored by Rep. O’Day, Rep. Howard, and Sen. DiDomenico)

Back in September of last year we celebrated the first update to our school health education curriculum frameworks since 1999. These new standards are intended to be more LGBTQ+ inclusive and teach about bodily autonomy, mental and emotional health, dating safety, nutrition, sexually transmitted infections, and consent. These updates include different guidelines for four age groups: pre-K through second grade, grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. However, these frameworks are guidelines rather than specific mandated curricula, and districts may opt in if they wish.

That’s why despite this positive step forward, the passage of the Healthy Youth Act is still so important so that these recommendations for districts are codified into law. As I have outlined in testimony to the Committee on Education, although young people aged 15 to 24 represent only a quarter of people having sex, more than two-thirds of chlamydia cases and almost half of gonorrhea cases occur in that age group in Massachusetts. Many young people are not receiving the tools they need to prevent STIs — just 52% of Massachusetts teens were taught how to use condoms in school in the year 2021. This is frankly outrageous and completely preventable. We need to shed our outdated, puritanical, and harmful views about sexuality and that starts with good quality, comprehensive health education in school.

H.1981/S.1242, An Act relative to preventing overdose deaths and increasing access to treatment (Sponsored by Rep. Fernandes, Rep. Decker, and Sen. Cyr)

An Overdose Prevention Center (OPC) provides a space for people who use drugs to consume pre–obtained drugs under the supervision of healthcare professionals or other trained staff and may provide other related services including but not limited to needle exchange, overdose prevention, and referrals to treatment and other services. I’m proud to represent Cambridge and Somerville, two cities that are both seriously exploring site plans to host a prevention center. To mount the most effective response to the opioid epidemic we need to replace the all-too-common criminal legal response to substance use with a truly public health-based response, and OPCs would do just that.


H.645/S.376, An Act relative to Massachusetts home care eligibility (Rep. Peake and Sen. Jehlen)

Waives the age requirement for access to Home Care services for those who are living with HIV/AIDS and experiencing effects of premature aging.

H.636/S.365, An Act relative to LGBT and HIV positive seniors in the commonwealth (Rep. Lewis, Rep. Peake, and Sen. Cyr)

Designates long term survivors of HIV/AIDS and LGBTQI older adults as a population of greatest social need under the Older Americans Act.

H.637/S.381, An Act establishing an LGBTQI long-term care facility bill of rights (Rep. Lewis, Rep. Peake, and Sen. Jehlen)

Provides protections for LGBTQI older adults who receive long term care (in nursing homes, rehabilitation spaces, assisted living, etc.).

PrEP Access

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and exists as a daily oral medication, and more recently available as a bi-monthly injection, that is highly successful at preventing the spread of HIV from sex. Last March Attorney General Campbell issued a consumer advisory supporting access to this preventative drug and announced the formation of a national coalition in support of a unique diagnostic code in order to reduce insurance ambiguity and overcharging by insurance companies. I hope we can build off the AG’s leadership by taking up these bills which would expand access to one of our best tools to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

H.1085/S.619, An Act to address barriers to HIV prevention medication (Rep. Lewis and Sen. Cyr)

Prohibits insurers from imposing cost sharing or utilization review (also referred to as utilization management), such as prior authorization or step therapy, for PrEP medication.

H.2225/S.1353, An Act enabling pharmacists to prescribe, dispense and, administer PrEP (Rep. Lewis and Sen. Cyr) Expands access to PrEP, an under-utilized prevention tool, for those who may face barriers in non-traditional clinical settings, through pharmacies.

H.993/S.595, An Act to strengthen the control of contagious and infectious diseases in the Commonwealth (Rep. Domb and Sen. Comerford)

Addresses the barriers of cost-sharing, prior authorization, and utilization review for access to prevention, testing, and treatment of infectious diseases.

Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Reform

H.1618, An Act repealing homophobic and transphobic laws (Rep. Lewis and Rep. Montaño)

Revokes “Crime against nature” and “Unnatural and lascivious acts” chapters of the MA General Law. These laws are rooted in bigotry that should never have been codified in Massachusetts statute. As we strive to reduce stigma and fight for human rights for the LGBTQIA+ community, this harmful rhetoric has no place in public discourse let alone state law.

S.1358, An Act relative to LGBTQ health equity (Sen. Cyr)

Provides framework for collection of standardized, anonymous, and voluntary demographic information that contains questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), to better inform public health policy affecting the LGBTQIA+ community.

H.2357/S.1499, An Act to promote rehabilitation including guaranteed health, treatment, and safety for incarcerated LGBTQI+ People (Rep. Lewis and Sen. Cyr)

Unfortunately, homophobic, and transphobic violence is deeply embedded within the culture of incarceration. This bill seeks to reduce that harm by ensuring LGBTQI+ people have the right to safety, transparency, access to HIV prevention and treatment, and affirming programming. Additionally, this bill seeks to minimize the inappropriate and disproportionate use of solitary confinement for LGBTQI+ people.

H.1758/S.1046 An Act to prevent human trafficking and improve the health and safety of sex workers (Rep. Sabadosa and Sen. Miranda)

This bill prevents human trafficking and police profiling of LGBTQ people and women of color. It also creates a committee to study decriminalizing sex work to prevent trafficking and improve health and safety.

H.4672/S.947 An Act to ensure legal parentage equality (Reps. Peake, Kane, and Sen. Cyr)

Massachusetts statutes have not kept pace with modern science and the diversity of our families.Many LGBTQ+ families must adopt their own children, leaving many children and families vulnerable. The Massachusetts Parentage Act (MPA) updates Massachusetts statutes to clarify who can be a parent and how to establish parentage. This bill is critical to ensuring that all children can access the security of legal parentage, regardless of the circumstances of their birth.

In addition to the above bills I will continue work to advance the policy recommendations of the Massachusetts LGBTQ Youth Commission which can be found here in their recently published Annual Report.

Are there any LGBTQ+ policy issues you want to discuss? Email me at [email protected] or call (617) 722-2240 to chat. Thanks for reading this far and Happy Pride!