By Stephanie Ebbert Globe Staff
September 12, 2018
A first-of-its-kind study being released Wednesday refutes the premise that the state’s transgender antidiscrimination law threatens public safety, finding no relation between public transgender bathroom access and crimes that occur in bathrooms.
Researchers at the Williams Institute, a think tank focused on gender identity at the UCLA School of Law, examined restroom crime reports in Massachusetts cities of similar size and comparable demographics and found no increase in crime and no difference between cities that had adopted transgender policies and those that had not. The data were collected for a minimum of two years before a statewide antidiscrimination law took effect in 2016.
Activists who want to undo that state law through a ballot question in the Nov. 6 election have focused their campaign message on bathroom safety concerns. They suggest that a new right for transgender people infringes on everyone else’s privacy rights, and could be abused by men who want to prey upon women and children in ladies’ rooms. The vote is being closely watched nationwide because it offers the nation’s first public referendum on transgender rights in the state that first introduced gay marriage.
Transgender activists bristle at the idea that the campaign casts them as potential sexual offenders and have argued that there is no evidence that the law threatens anyone’s safety.
A spokesman for the Freedom for All Massachusetts campaign, which is working to preserve the law, said the Williams Institute study reaffirms that stance.
“It really takes the wind out of the sails of our opponents who have been trying to paint this false picture,” said spokesman Matthew Wilder.
Yvette Ollada, a spokeswoman for the “Vote No on 3” campaign, said she could not speak to the study before reviewing it, but she questioned its objectivity since the opposing campaign was anticipating its release.
“If it’s unbiased, wouldn’t they send it to both campaigns?” Ollada said.