Rosenberg chastises ‘reluctant leadership’ on LGBT issues


  • Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey called on people at a LGBT panel discussion to hold each other accountable to “walk the walk” when it comes to creating an inclusive and welcoming workplace environment. AP file photo

For the Gazette
Published: 9/29/2016 3:59:27 PM

BOSTON — Senate President Stanley Rosenberg chastised elected officials for “reluctant leadership” and urged support for gay and lesbian legislative candidates during a breakfast in Boston on Thursday.

“We need to get behind them and get them to the finish line,” said the Amherst Democrat, adding that with very few LGBT members in the Legislature, it is urgent for voters to “replenish the ranks.”

Rosenberg, who is gay, was joined by Attorney General Maura Healey, a lesbian, on the panel, which was part of a breakfast series sponsored by Pride in Our Workplace and hosted by Locke Lord LLP, an international law firm. Thursday’s session was titled “Public/Private Partnerships for Advancing LGBTQ Inclusion and Civil Rights.”

Another panelist was Karen Young, chief diversity officer at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

The participants stressed the importance of leadership in government and the business community. They also discussed obstacles to coming out and the barriers in the workplace to the LGBT community.

“Part of what we see today is the implicit bias that happens,” Healey said. “I continue to be mindful of the fact that when I walk into a room, I wonder how (people) are viewing me. As their attorney general, as a lesbian, as a woman, I don’t know, but it’s not lost on me, what might be running through people’s heads.”

Healey called on everyone in the community to hold each other accountable to “walk the walk” when it comes to creating an inclusive and welcoming workplace environment.

“It’s not enough to just adopt a workplace policy or pass a law, though that is significant,” she said. “Implementation becomes really important.”

Health care issues

Healey said one of the most consistent complaints her office receives is the failure of some health care providers to provide proper care for LGBT members due to lack of familiarity or training.

In response, Healey started a program during the summer with the Massachusetts Hospital Association and Fenway Health to help train providers on how to give their LGBT clients the care they need.

Rosenberg said one of the biggest barriers is hesitation to act by officials in state government. He singled out the lengthy process in passing the Transgender Public Accommodations Bill in July, which allows people to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

“We had both the governor and (House) speaker privately saying they knew it was the right thing to do, but publicly dancing and dancing,” Rosenberg said. “It dragged on forever. All they needed to do was have the courage to say, ‘This is the right thing to do.’”

Future challenges

Looking ahead, Rosenberg highlighted future challenges, including finding resources in the state budget for LGBT community needs. Among them are HIV funding programs and services and safe schools.

Rosenberg also noted that with legislative elections in November, the LGBT community needs to stand behind candidates such as Jack Patrick Lewis, who running for state representative in the 7th Middlesex District, and Julian Cyr, a Senate candidate in the district including Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

J.M. Sorrell, a spokeswoman for NoHo Pride, an advocacy group in Northampton, also focused on the Nov. 8 election, saying it is important for western Massachusetts, a “uniquely progressive place,” to be represented by progressive thinkers.

Sorrell, who did not attend the breakfast in Boston and was interviewed later Thursday, emphasized the need for leadership within the western Massachusetts community, saying that people are aware enough not to alienate LGBT business, but there is still progress to be made.

“Where even well-meaning businesses fail is that they don’t understand they need to do outreach to LGBT communities,” she said. “It’s not enough to be a passive supporter. You have to be an active supporter.”

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