While many state legislatures across the country are scrambling to pass anti-LGBTQ+ legislation this year, Massachusetts is going in the other direction.
The state’s senate passed a bill yesterday — unanimously, as in, even the chamber’s Republicans voted for it — that repeals the state’s ban on gay sex as well as a law known as the “walking while trans” law.
“I’m just really happy that it passed. And I hope that it will pass seamlessly in the house. There’s absolutely no reason for it not to pass,” Tanya Neslusan of MassEquality told the Washington Blade.
The state’s criminal code bans “the abominable and detestable crime against nature” and “unnatural and lascivious acts with another person.” The state senate bill repeals the “crimes against nature” law entirely and says that the part about “unnatural and lascivious acts” refers only to those acts performed in public.
The law can’t be used to prosecute gay people’s behavior in private because of several state court decisions, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas. But the law has stayed on the books and could now be removed.
Another part of the criminal code bans “common night walkers, common street walkers, both male and female,” language that critics say has been used to harass trans people for walking in public under the pretense of them being sex workers.
“That’s something that hits the queer community. It’s something easy to target when somebody is not creating a disturbance, but they are visibly queer or trans and you can label them a ‘common night walker,’” said Neslusan. “It’s also really stigmatizing language when you refer to somebody as a ‘common night walker.’”
A third law that bans blasphemy would also be repealed if the state senate bill becomes law.
The bill now goes to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The lower chamber has 135 members who caucus with Democrats and 24 Republicans.