Massachusetts will vote on transgender protections this fall

Charlie Baker

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker signed the transgender protections into law in 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Voters in Massachusetts will decide whether or not to keep a law that bans discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations this fall.

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin just certified that sponsors had completed the necessary steps to get a measure on the ballot that would repeal the state’s 2016 anti-discrimination law.

The law banned discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of gender identity and required businesses to allow people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. As a compromise with conservatives, the law empowered the attorney general to prosecute people who claim a gender identity for an “improper purpose.”

The repeal initiative will appear on the ballot as Question 3, and voting “yes” will be voting in favor of keeping the transgender protections.

The anti-LGBTQ organization Keep Massachusetts Safe sponsored the ballot initiative, saying that people don’t “feel safe” in the state because of the law.

They say their ultimate goal is to “go back to the legislature and start from scratch and make a better law.”

Supporters of the 2016 law, though, are campaigning to defend it.

“We are canvassing door to door every weekend,” said Mason Dunn of the group Freedom For All. “We are hosting phone banks and we are talking to the public about who transgender people are and why these protections are so important and then from there moving to a ‘Yes on 3’ message.”

While Massachusetts is generally a liberal state, the battle is far from won. A poll this past May showed that only a slim majority of voters (52%) favor the transgender protections (38% oppose the law).

Analysts also say that, if the measure is successful in Massachusetts, it could encourage anti-LGBTQ activists in other states.

“If it were somehow to pass in Massachusetts, it would be very divisive across the country,” said Steve Koczela, a pollster for MassINC pollster. “You would start to see these ballot questions popping up in a lot of other places.”

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