BOSTON (AP) — U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy is pressing state lawmakers to approve legislation strengthening legal protections for transgender people.

The Democrat says Massachusetts is lagging behind 17 other states and Washington, D.C., which have extended public accommodations laws to transgender people.

Former Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill in 2011 protecting transgender individuals from discrimination in the workplace and housing by adding “gender identity and expression” to the state’s civil rights laws.

Keller @ Large: Kennedy Leads Charge For Change

Kennedy said Thursday it’s time to broaden those protections.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker supports the 2011 bill, but prefers the state’s existing public accommodations law.

In the 2010 campaign, Baker labeled legislation that would extend public accommodations protections to transgender individuals the “bathroom bill.”

Kennedy said critics have to get past their discomfort when it comes to protecting civil rights.

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