Massachusetts prides itself on being one of the most liberal states in the country, but a ballot initiative in November could put that image in jeopardy.
Known as Proposition 3, the ballot initiative could overturn a 2016 law that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in public places such as hotels, restaurants and stores. Signed by Governor Charlie Baker, the law also contains a provision that transgender people are allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, according to the Boston Globe.
If Massachusetts voters repeal the law, it could become the first state in the country to overturn a law that grants protections to transgender people in public accommodations, according to a report released by Boston Indicators in collaboration with The Fenway Institute.
If the law is repealed, it won’t ban transgender people from being in public accommodations, but they will lose the assurance of federal government protection, according to Kurtlan Massarsky, Director of Development and Marketing at the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth.
17-year-old Florence Kallon, a student at Roxbury Prep High School, believes Massachusetts portrays itself as a liberal state, when in reality, this ballot question proves to Kallon that “a lot of people have this secret hate towards trans people.”
According to a recent poll conducted by the Suffolk University Political Research Center, 49 percent of people would vote to preserve the law, 37 percent would vote to repeal it, and 13 percent are undecided. Major religious organizations, colleges, and civil rights groups have voiced their support for preserving this law, including prominent people like Mayor Marty Walsh. The ACLU of Massachusetts, the Anti-Defamation League, NARAL Pro-Choice and GLAD have all voiced their opposition to Proposition 3 as well, according to Ballotpedia.
In a statement, Mayor Walsh said, “Supporting this law is the right thing to do. This law has been in Massachusetts for two years with no issues, and a similar local ordinance has been in Boston for more than a decade. In that time, we have become a more welcoming and inclusive city for our transgender friends and neighbors. We can’t take a step backwards.”
Freedom for All Massachusetts (FFAM) is a coalition recently launched to update Massachusetts’ long-standing civil rights laws to include nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public places. Matt Wilder, a communications consultant at FFAM, said he's not transgender, but the people he knows who are just want to live their lives like all of us, and that's what this law allows them to do.
“It allows them to go to school, to work and to meet the obligations that they have to provide for their family without harassment,” said Wilder. “We all expect that in our daily lives, and there’s no reason why transgender people shouldn’t expect the same.”
Meanwhile, Keep MA Safe, a ballot campaign dedicated to repealing the law, claims that the current anti-discrimination law endangers the safety of women and children. According to their website, they believe the law creates an opportunity for sexual predators who are confused about their gender to use this as a cover for their evil intentions.
Naleyah Cesar, a 17-year-old student at Roxbury Prep High School, argues that repealing the law is “going to make the world a lot harder for LGBTQ people of color, and it’s going to lead to a lot of fear.”
Whether the law remains in place or is repealed, one thing is certain: the outcome of the ballot initiative now lies in the hands of voters this November.