On the ballot is a question that could repeal a 2016 law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in public places
Josh Wood in Boston, Massachusetts
Wed 31 Oct 2018
Amid continued attempts by the Trump administration to roll back transgender rights in the United States, Massachusetts voters are set to decide whether or not to eliminate a 2016 state law protecting transgender individuals from discrimination in public spaces like restaurants and shops.
The 6 November ballot question will mark the first statewide referendum in the country that threatens to revoke previously guaranteed transgender rights. If the law is successfully repealed, transgender rights activists worry that it could trigger similar campaigns elsewhere in the country.
“Question 3 poses significant consequences for transgender people across Massachusetts, but it also would have significant consequences for transgender people across the country,” said Sarah McBride, the national press secretary of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT rights group.
“If opponents of equality can win here they’re going to take those strategies, they’re going to take those tactics and they’re going to try to replicate them in other places,” she added.
Ballot question 3 asks voters if they want to keep or repeal a 2016 law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public spaces and allows them to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.
The group behind the ballot question is Keep MA Safe. They charge that with the current law in place, women and children are endangered as men can enter women’s locker rooms and restrooms at will by simply stating that they identify as a woman. The group’s logo features a man standing on a toilet to peep on a woman in the next stall. And their campaign ads portray a man lying in wait in a bathroom stall before spying on an unsuspecting woman. As she unbuttons her blouse, the stall door begins to open and a deep grunt is heard.
“We believe everyone deserves to feel comfortable and safe when they’re using the locker room, bathroom, changing area or public shower. And that everyone includes women who don’t want men in their private spaces,” said Andrew Beckwith, the president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, one of the key backers of the No on 3 campaign that aims to repeal the law.
Beckwith maintains the purpose of the efforts to repeal the anti-discrimination law is to keep women safe. But activists on the other side say it was born out of simple anti-trans bigotry and prejudice.
But while Beckwith argues safety is at the core of the repeal efforts, the views of the Massachusetts Family Institute appear consistent with those of the Christian right. The group says it is committed to “strengthening the family” and Judeo-Christian values. They say marriage can only be between a man and a woman, promote sexual abstinence outside of marriage and oppose euthanasia and abortion as well as the legalization of recreational drugs.
Mason Dunn is the co-chair of Freedom for All Massachusetts, the campaign to keep the anti-discrimination law in place. He says he is cautiously optimistic that efforts to keep the law will succeed.