Opinion » Guest Opinion

What Question 3 in Massachusetts is Really About

by Jorge  Baptista
Thursday Nov 1, 2018

An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination" was enacted by the Massachusetts Legislature to protect and ensure that anti-discrimination protections exist for those who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming in public spaces. The Act ensures that public accommodations are kept as public accommodations for all individuals and is not a bathroom bill as being framed by campaigns, organizations, and individuals opposing this legislation.

The Act does not endorse or support sexual assault or violence against any individual in public spaces in any way, shape or form. Nor is its purpose to put women or children in danger or harms way. Unfortunately, groups opposed to the Act assert that supporting individuals who are transgender perpetuate and encourage violence in bathrooms, putting women and children in danger. This assertion is not supported by a recent study by UCLA's Williams Institute.

The opposition, including Andrew Beckwith from the "Keep Massachusetts Safe Campaign" and the "Massachusetts Family Institute" continue to use demoralizing language, casting trans and gender non-conforming individuals as sexual predators and those with evil intentions. This is the type of language LGBTQ+ individuals have had to face for too long and is still present in local, national, and global perspectives. This is not acceptable in a world where human beings have the right to be and live in public spaces.

The Massachusetts Family Institute, which supports the opposition of this important legislation, has continued to oppose marriage equality, and the 2015 Supreme Court's Ogerfell v. Hodges decision.

The current legislation does make sexual assault and other acts of violence and discrimination perpetrated against transgender individuals illegal in the Commonwealth. The Act protects those who have different gender identities. Voting "Yes" on Massachusetts' Question 3 would keep in place these protections for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in places of public accommodations.

Repealing this important legislation is not the solution to deal with sexual violence in bathrooms. More so, maintaining this law creates safe spaces for all.

The fact that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have anti-discriminatory legislation in place to ensure that their rights are protected has contributed to increased feelings of safety. Historically this is a community that has struggled with discrimination and police brutality.

Regardless of where you live or vote, we as citizens of the Commonwealth need to do more for our fellow trans and gender non-conforming community members.

This should not be a partisan political issue; nor should this be an issue of the "Left" or the "Right." For example, in 2016 Governor Charlie Baker (R) signed this legislation (bill S.2407) into law days after the bill came across his desk.

If you are a Massachusetts resident and are registered to vote, please consider a "Yes" vote on Question 3 to keep this legislation where it belongs, enacted to ensure public accommodations for transgender individuals.

We can ensure the safety of women and children without dehumanizing, spread fear, and assert stereotypes of those who have differing gender identities. Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have been and will always be part of our communities. The least that Massachusetts residents can do is to continue to ensure safe spaces for these individuals.

There is no question that the implications of our support is vital to keep this legislation enacted. Whether as allies or as those who are trans or gender non-conforming, this is a human rights issue.

Jorge Baptista, MPH student at Boston University School of Public Health, jorgewb@bu.edu

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