Governor Charlie Baker said on Tuesday he is ready to sign a transgender rights bill if it passes in its current form in the state House of Representatives amid an acrimonious debate across the United States about the issue.
Baker, a socially liberal Republican, had come under fire this year for refusing to say whether he would approve the bill, which would ban discrimination against transgender people in public restrooms and other public buildings. It passed the state Senate last month.
"No one should be discriminated against in Massachusetts because of their gender identity," Baker said in a statement. "I would sign the House version in its current form should it reach my desk."
The Massachusetts House is due to vote on the measure on Wednesday. It is expected to pass by a wide margin in the Democratic-controlled chamber.
The House version of the bill differs from the version passed by the Senate in that it directs the state attorney general to issue guidelines to law enforcement on how to handle people who claim transgender rights "for an improper purpose."
That language is a nod to one of the main concerns of opponents of people using bathrooms or locker rooms that do not correspond with their birth gender - that sexual predators will claim transgender status to access potential victims.
The measure would make liberal-leaning Massachusetts the 18th U.S. state to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.
The issue of transgender rights has become the latest front in America's culture wars. Some supporters of the Massachusetts measure described it as a rebuke to a law put in place in March in North Carolina prohibiting people from using bathrooms that do not correspond to the sex on their birth certificates.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Bill Trott)