Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on Wednesday signed a bill into law that bars discrimination in the workplace against transgender people, the AP reported.

The law, which also amends the state's existing hate crime laws to include gender identity and expression, makes Massachusetts the 16th state, along with the District of Columbia, to enact such a measure.

Patrick said he signed the bill as a matter of “conscience,” but added that he objected to last-minute negotiations which resulted in proponents agreeing to drop a public accommodations section of the bill in a bid to boost lawmaker support.

“It gave me pause, and it gave the advocates pause, and it gave transgender people pause,” Patrick told the Patriot Ledger. “There's a lot of good in this bill, and after consulting with them and my team and my own conscience, I wanted to sign this bill. And then, we'll come back around to public accommodations.”

Gay rights activists cheered Patrick for his support.

“We applaud his unwavering leadership in creating a Commonwealth where all hardworking people, including transgender people, will have the opportunity to make a living, put a roof over their heads, and get an education without fear of being discriminated against simply because of who they are,” said MassEquality Executive Director Kara Suffredini. “The governor has long understood that this is a matter of basic fairness.”

Patrick signed the bill quietly without much fanfare. A public signing ceremony is expected after the holidays.

According to a 2011 study by the Williams Institute, roughly 33,000 people in Massachusetts identify as transgender.