Transgender advocates achieved a key victory Tuesday night when voters in Massachusetts agreed to uphold a transgender non-discrimination law anti-LGBT groups put up for referendum.
The “Yes on 3” campaign declared victory on Question 3 at 10 pm two hours after polls closed in the state at 8 p.m. The Washington Blade will have updated results as they become available.
As a result, the statute barring anti-trans discrimination in public accommodations, signed into law by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in 2016, will remain on the books. The vote marks the first time in the United States that voters agreed on a statewide basis to uphold a transgender-specific non-discrimination law.
Kasey Suffredini, “Yes on 3” campaign co-chair and president of strategy at Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement Massachusetts “made history, both for our transgender neighbors who call this state home, and for transgender people across this nation.”
“From the very early days of this campaign, we have been clear that this is about dignity and respect for all people,” Suffredini said. “We have shattered broken stereotypes of what it means to be transgender, proven that nondiscrimination protections are about more than just restrooms, and debunked the myth – once and for all – that protecting transgender people compromises the safety of others.”
The victory in Massachusetts for transgender advocates was expected. Polls in the weeks before Election Day showed a supermajority of Massachusetts residents were in favor of upholding the law.
But that didn’t stop anti-LGBT groups from fear-mongering about the law allowing sexual predators in public restrooms. The “No on 3” campaign had a central message of fear-mongering about public safety and unveiled a TV ad depicting a male sexual predator in the women’s bathroom.
Despite the claims of those groups, the idea transgender non-discrimination will enable sexual assault is unfounded. In fact, a study from the Williams Institute, at the University of California, Los Angeles, found non-discrimination protections have increased safety in public restrooms.
In response to the fear-mongering, the “Yes on 3” campaign ran ads depicting the personal stories of transgender people in Massachusetts and the importance of the non-discrimination law to them.
The victory in Massachusetts represents a turning point this year for transgender advocates, who were previously stymied by efforts to undo transgender non-discrimination laws when anti-trans groups stoked fears about sexual predators in the bathroom.
After a referendum in Houston in 2015 reversed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, LGBT advocates sought to alter their strategy by spreading the personal stories of local transgender people.
Consequently, voters upheld a similar non-discrimination ordinance in Anchorage, Alaska, when it was placed on the ballot this year. The win in Massachusetts is the second such victory this year.
The increasing number of victories for transgender advocates throughout the country will likely make anti-trans groups more hesitant to place transgender rights on the ballot and seek to stoke fears about transgender people for political gain.
The results in Massachusetts also stand in contrast to efforts within the Trump administration to restrict transgender rights and define the term sex under federal non-discrimination laws to exclude transgender people.
Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement the victory “illuminates the path forward amidst a particularly dark time for transgender Americans across the nation.”
“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,” Davis said.