Comerford delivers inaugural Senate speech

  • Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton  STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, speaks to reporters after her inaugural speech at the State House last week. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, speaks to reporters after her inaugural speech at the State House last week. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/29/2019 10:11:44 PM

First-term state Sen. Jo Comerford, who won a write-in campaign in the 2018 general election, delivered her inaugural speech late last week, just before a bill she filed concerning gender identity passed the Senate by a vote of 39-1.

“This bill is about advancing basic human dignity, supporting human rights and protecting everyone’s right to their own self-identity,” Comerford said. “People know what gender they are. This bill simply allows their official documents to match how they self-identify. It allows for the commonwealth to mandate gender identification and IDs as diverse as our people.”

Comerford, D-Northampton, said she has filed 48 bills since she took her seat in the state Senate in January, and this is the first of those bills to pass.

The bill allows for “X” gender identification, rather than “M” or “F” on a Massachusetts driver’s license, and does not require any documentation. It also allows a person 18 or older or a minor’s parents to request a change in their birth certificate reflecting gender identity.

Comerford said she worked closely with Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Second Middlesex and Norfolk, to move the bill through the Senate. Spilka filed the bill last session, after the issue was brought to her attention by a constituent.

The senator delivered her inaugural speech about issues concerning her district on the floor of the Senate immediately before the vote.

“It is an honor it is to address you as the state Senator from the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district,” she said. “The 24 cities and towns in my district are not just naturally beautiful, they are strong contributors to our commonwealth’s wellbeing and advancement”

She told fellow senators, the towns of Shutesbury, New Salem and Pelham are the stewards of Boston’s drinking water, while farmers in Deerfield, Sunderland, Hadley and Hatfield use the open space and rich soil to grow the food that they transport to Boston every day. She also said forests in Wendell, Warwick and Royalston are “essentially breathing for the state” as they suck up carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen.

“It is, of course, equally alarming and sobering to receive the testimony of towns being crushed under the weight of education funding,” Comerford said. “It is wrenching when my local food bank tells me that in one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest country in the world, nearly 22,000 of my constituents remain food insecure. Or, when I hear about another life lost to the opioid crisis. I am left without an answer when a Greenfield constituent with no other means of transportation than a bus asks me how they can get to school or work without any public transportation at night or on the weekends in all of Franklin County.”

Comerford has said she will continue to work hard on all of those issues and more. The designation “X” bill emerged as the standard gender-neutral designation on state IDs and records and is available in at least 10 states on driver’s licenses, including Vice President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana.


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