On Nov. 6, Massachusetts voters will decide on three ballot initiatives, the third of which aims to repeal anti-discrimination protections under the Commonwealth’s law for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. Importantly, the wording of the ballot question is less than intuitive. A “yes” vote would uphold the law’s prohibition of discrimination based on gender identity in public accommodations, such as restaurants, shops or hotels. A “no” vote would remove these protections. We at the Record urge Massachusetts voters to vote “yes” on Question 3 and commend students and others who have already advocated to reject this repeal effort. We would like to particularly thank the community members who organized and participated in the transgender rights rally on Friday.
This repeal effort is the first of its kind in the nation, and stripping these protections would set a dangerous and discriminatory precedent for other states to pursue similar efforts. Similarly, in light of federal antagonism towards transgender individuals – specifically, a recently leaked proposed memo that would define gender based upon sex assigned at birth throughout the federal government – this referendum offers Massachusetts voters a powerful opportunity to reaffirm the Commonwealth’s progressive and welcoming posture.
The arguments in favor of repealing these protections center on dishonest and baseless claims of individuals using gender identity as a pretense to commit crimes in gender-segregated spaces like bathrooms, claims commonly reflected in “bathroom bills” passed in other states. There is no evidence to show that trans and gender non-conforming individuals commit such crimes; indeed, they themselves are much more likely to be victims of gender-based violence. Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination protections have already been in place for two years without any issues, and the Commonwealth already has strong laws against anyone committing criminal acts in a bathroom.
In this context of hateful questioning of the fundamental rights and identities of trans and gender non-conforming individuals, we also commend those who work to advance inclusion and equity for these individuals at the College. We remind the College that it too should reaffirm and expand the accessibility of this campus to trans and gender non-conforming students, faculty, staff and community members.
In the seminal Supreme Court case West Virginia v. Barnette, Justice Robert Jackson wrote, “Fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” Sadly, in this particular case, the fundamental rights of transgender individuals to work, go to school and exist in public spaces is being put to a vote; we urge voters to repudiate the hateful rhetoric that put the question of repeal on the ballot and to vote “yes” on Question 3.