Metro Weekly

2018 Elections: Transgender rights prevail in Massachusetts

Two-thirds of Bay State voters uphold law protecting transgender people from discrimination

Members of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition at Boston Parade – Photo: Facebook.

Amid attempts by Trump to crackdown on transgender rights, Massachusetts voters delivered an overwhelming rebuttal on Tuesday night.

More than two-thirds of voters in the Bay State chose to uphold a law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in places of public accommodations, including restaurants, department stores, gyms, libraries, package stores, locker rooms and public restrooms. 

Opponents of LGBTQ rights had attempted to repeal the law, arguing that it would put women and children at risk of sexual harassment or sexual assault in intimate spaces. But no such attacks have occurred in Massachusetts since the law passed in 2016, and voters were clearly unconvinced with 68% voting to retain the law.

LGBTQ groups hailed the victory as an important statement defying the Trump administration’s attempts to redefine sex and gender — which many consider an attempt to deny the very existence of transgender people.

“Tonight’s victory illuminates the path forward amidst a particularly dark time for transgender Americans,” Masen Davis, the CEO of Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement. “This victory is a reminder that broad majorities of Americans support treating transgender people with dignity and respect — and that attempts at the federal level to allow discrimination don’t reflect the values held by most Americans.”

“By winning the first statewide popular vote on transgender rights, Massachusetts voters reaffirmed our Commonwealth as a place that fiercely defends our basic values of dignity and respect for everyone,” Carol Rose, the executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, said in a statement. “When Massachusetts leads on equality, the nation watches — and often, it follows. Tonight, we sent a message not just to transgender people and their families and friends here in Massachusetts, but to the entire country. At a time when transgender rights are being threatened nationally, we absolutely must preserve the rights we have secured at the state level.”

Other pro-LGBTQ advocates noted that voters, thus far, have not shown any enthusiasm to vote on laws that would strip rights away from transgender people. This provides a marked contrast from the public’s opinion on marriage equality during the early years of this century, when referenda asking voters to ban same-sex marriages ended up on more than 30 states’ ballots.

“It’s now clear that America — from coast to coast — supports protections for transgender and nonbinary people,” James Esseks, the director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said in a statement, adding, “Over the past two years, anti-transgender activists tried but failed to get a similar measure on the ballot in Washington State and in Montana. Last spring, voters in Anchorage rejected a related anti-transgender ballot measure. And now Massachusetts has sided with the transgender community. The failure of these anti-trans ballot tactics should prove, once and for all, that voters don’t want to discriminate.

“Once again, we see that when people meet their transgender neighbors, equality will prevail,” Esseks added. “This victory belongs to every transgender and nonbinary person in Massachusetts and those around the country who are living their truth. No one should have to fight for their own humanity this way — but we are thankful to those who refused to back down in the face of discrimination. Those who oppose equality should see this as another clear message that discrimination should have no place in America.”

Mason Dunn, the executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, cast the victory as a starting step on the long journey towards lived equality, hailing its passage as a “powerful, unmistakable message that [Massachusetts residents] value our transgender friends and neighbors.”

“Make no mistake, there’s still so much work to be done for trans rights here in Massachusetts — from working on non-binary gender markers, to healthcare equity, and beyond, we know the fight isn’t over,” Dunn said in a an email sent to MTPC supporters. “But this win finally gives us the opportunity to say that nondiscrimination rights for trans people in the Commonwealth are here to stay.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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