Question Profile: Question Three

Ellie Chappuis and Mikayla Hannus

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In just over a month, Massachusetts voters will not only elect representatives, but also vote on important ballot questions. Question three deals with a previous bill about transgender discrimination. Voting “yes” will keep the current bill in place, which prevents transgender people from being excluded from “public accommodations”, including allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. Voting “no” would repeal this current law.

 

This bill, known as SB 2407, passed in the state legislature in 2016 and has been in place since then. It officially bans discrimination in public places, including stores, due to gender identity. It also allows people to use the bathroom that matches their gender, regardless of their assigned sex. In response to the bill, there was a petition which got enough signatures to become a ballot question. This means that voters get to decide whether to keep or overturn this bill. The main organization campaigning for the bill to be repealed (no vote) is Keep MA Safe, while the main organization campaigning to keep the bill (yes vote) is Freedom for All Massachusetts. According to a poll from WBUR News, “Just 38 percent of voters polled supported repealing the law that allowed transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity regardless of their sex at birth. Fifty-two percent of voters polled supported allowing transgender people to continue using the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.”

 

There are multiple arguments to keep the current bill in place, based on equal rights, national repercussions, and businesses. Many people and organizations support the “yes” vote including numerous religious and political leaders, local colleges, The Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination Coalition, The Boston Bar Association, and Freedom Massachusetts. Much of the argument to keep the bill in place is based off of equal rights for transgender people, aiming to lower the amount of discrimination and harassment in public places such as restaurants, bathrooms, stores, and locker rooms.

There is also a discussion surrounding national repercussions. Many people, including Kasey Suffredini, believe that if anti-transgender activists can repeal the bill for transgender rights in Massachusetts, it would set off a domino effect across the country that would set LGBTQ+ rights back several years. Phil Sherwood, campaign manager of Freedom For All Massachusetts, believes that if the bill is repealed it would hurt businesses. He says that, “Employees of all backgrounds [should] know they are fully protected under the law here.” (ballotpedia.org) He is advocating that businesses would be more likely to have a larger amount of happier employees if they were notably respectful of people’s gender. Not only would this have a large overall impact, it would also affect individual people’s daily lives. Kelly Jenkins says, “It’s hard for me to grasp that someone is going to stand in a booth and determine my fate as a human being. Someone gets to walk into a little, tiny booth and make a tick mark on a sheet of paper… to determine whether or not someone can tell me to leave their business.” (masslive.com)

 

The argument against the bill also tries to keep people safe, but they believe another group is at risk, women. As said by Kaeley Triller Haver, “[It is less important to] elevate the emotional comfort of a relative few over the physical safety of a large group of vulnerable people.” (ballotpedia.org) Supporters for the “no” vote, including Massachusetts Family Institute, believe that allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that they want could lead to men preying on women and children, and letting these predatory acts go unreported and unpunished. Keep MA Safe said that, “We should not require women to sacrifice their privacy for the sake of sexual charades.” (ballotpedia.org) Beyond the actual act itself, they believe that because you can be fined, people will not report legitimate predators out of fear of being brought up on hate crime charges. The majority of this argument is to protect women. As Haver said, “I am not saying that transgender people are predators. Not by a long shot. What I am saying is that there are countless deviant men in this world who will pretend to be transgender as a means to gain access to the people who want to exploit, namely women and children.” (ballotpedia.org) However, some people pushing for the “no” vote believe that transgender people are inappropriate. This group, represented by Jim Lyons, wants to “get back to normalcy where we recognize the difference between male and female.” (ballotpedia.org)

 

This vote is extremely important because it could have an effect not only on Massachusetts residents, but could affect state laws on transgender discrimination across the country. Both sides have recognized the major effects this vote could have on transgender rights across the country.

 

Sources

 

Halpern, Tess, and Kelly Jenkins. “The Massachusetts Transgender Anti-Discrimination Law Could Soon Be Repealed; How Did This Happen?” Masslive, 29 July 2018, www.masslive.com/expo/news/erry-2018/07/3aad24ba1c3929/the-massachusetts-transgender.html. Accessed 2 Oct. 2018.

 

“Massachusetts Law about Gender Identity or Expression.” Mass.gov, www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-law-about-gender-identity-or-expression.

 

“Massachusetts Question 3, Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Veto Referendum (2018).” Ballotpedia, ballotpedia.org/Massachusetts_Question_3,_Gender_Identity_Anti-Discrimination_Veto_Referendum_(2018).

 

“Referendum Petition.” Referendum Petition Chapter 134 of the Acts of 2016, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2016, www.mafamily.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Referendum-Petition-Ch-134-of-the-Acts-of-2016.pdf.

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Question Profile: Question Three