It's Pride Month in Massachusetts!

June is upon us and so I want to wish my constituents and everyone across the Commonwealth a very happy Pride Month!

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 yet, despite these steps forward, there is still so much more work to do to achieve true equality and equity for all LGBTQ+ residents. That's why I'd like to take this opportunity to let you know about some of our LGBTQ+ focused advocacy and legislative efforts for the 2021-2022 session which build off our progress in previous terms.

Last month I took action to help advance one of my top Pride agenda bills through the legislative committee process when An Act relative to healthy youth received a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Education. This legislation would require school districts that offer sex education to provide medically accurate, age-appropriate, comprehensive information with a focus on building healthy relationships and an understanding of consent and boundaries. Curricula would also be inclusive of LGBTQ+ youth sexual health.  Although they represent only a quarter of people having sex, more than two-thirds of chlamydia cases and almost half of gonorrhea cases occurred among young people ages 15 to 24 recently 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 that same year. As I asserted in my testimony to the Committee, 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 We need to shed our outdated, puritanical, and harmful views about sexuality and that starts with good quality, comprehensive health education in school.

Below is a sampling of our Pride legislative agenda which aims to empower the LGBTQ+ community with resources and tools, those living with HIV/AIDS, and those who are vulnerable to healthcare access inequities. I am pleased to report I am a co-sponsor of each of these bills. 

S.1404/H.2349 - An Act relative to HIV prevention access for young adults filed by Senator Julian Cyr and Representatives Jack Lewis and Chynah Tyler 

Current statute permits minors to consent to healthcare for many stigmatized services including treatment of STIs & HIV, but not prevention services such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). This bill adds prevention services to the healthcare minors may consent to without parental permission, removing a significant barrier to critical care. In July of 2018, the FDA approved the use of PrEP for minors and recommended its use for those at risk of HIV infection. 

S.1272/H.2088 - An Act relative to preventing overdose deaths and increasing access to treatment filed by Senator Julian Cyr and Representatives Dylan Fernandes and Marjorie Decker

A supervised consumption space (SCS) program 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.

S.318/H.673 - An Act relative to healthy youth filed by Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representatives James O’Day and Vanna Howard 

Currently there are no uniform standards for sexual health education in Massachusetts and many students are never educated about sexual health and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. This bill requires each school district or public school that offers sexual health education to provide medically accurate and LGBTQ+ inclusive education including healthy relationships, consent, contraceptive use, and sexually transmitted infections. 

S.405/H.752 - An Act relative to Massachusetts home care eligibility filed by Senator Patricia Jehlen and Representative Sarah Peake

As people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) are living longer and aging, some are also experiencing early onset of age-related illness and impairment. The bill would expand access to homecare services before the age of 60 to address health needs of long term survivors. 

S.1566/H.2484 - An Act to promote rehabilitation including guaranteed health, treatment, and safety for incarcerated LGBTQI+ People filed by Senator Julian Cyr and Representative Jack Lewis 

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.

S.142/H.264 - An Act providing a bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness filed by Senator Rebecca Rausch and Representative Smitty Pignatelli 

People experiencing homelessness often are subjected to discrimination and mistreatment based on their housing status. The bill of rights is a guide for state and local officials emphasizing that people experiencing homelessness are entitled to the same rights as any other resident of Massachusetts: the right to move freely in public spaces, the right to equal treatment by municipal agencies (such as police departments), freedom from discrimination in employment, the right to emergency medical care, the right to register to vote and to vote, freedom from disclosure of records, and the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy of property. 

S.2276/H.3515 An Act to provide identification to youth and adults experiencing homelessness filed by Senator Harriette Chandler and Representative Kay Khan 

Obtaining a state identification card is a critical first step for youth and adults experiencing homelessness to accomplish typical life tasks and access opportunities. This bill calls on the Registry of Motor Vehicles to waive the $25 fee for Mass IDs for applicants who are experiencing homelessness, and to accept alternative verifications of Massachusetts residency from state agencies and social service agencies. 

S.1552/H.2519 An Act to Create Alternatives for Community Emergency Services (ACES) filed by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Representative Lindsay N. Sabadosa 

Law enforcement officers have become the default first responders when someone is in crisis, which disproportionately and too often violently affects communities of color. Emergency calls related to mental health, substance use, or lack of housing and health care can be resolved without law enforcement, connecting individuals to service and support. The ACES Act creates a grant program to provide a community based alternative to law enforcement through the Department of Public Health.

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 2021 Annual Report.

And lastly, since there is no Pride without racial justice, I want to join in solidarity with Pride 4 The People which is calling attention to racism among Boston Pride’s leadership. Pride 4 The People states “Pride should belong to the community, should serve the entire community, and should remain true to its historical roots of addressing the injustices faced by the most disadvantaged among us. Pride for the People was founded in response to the institutionalized racism and white centeredness that has structured Boston Pride for decades.” You can learn more about their efforts here.

Is there a bill missing from the list or an issue of LGBTQ+ policy you want to discuss? Email me at [email protected] or call (617) 722-2060 to chat. Thank you!