By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com August 11 2011 7:15 PM ET
A right-wing group in Massachusetts has begun running ads opposing a transgender rights bill by raising the specter of sexual predators in public restrooms.
The bill, now pending in the Massachusetts legislature, actually has no language addressing restroom use, but merely adds “gender identity and expression” to the state’s civil rights and hate-crimes laws. And Massachusetts has no law barring men from using women’s public restrooms or vice versa, but it does have the ability to prosecute harassment and assaults that occur in these facilities, and the bill would not lessen that and may increase it, as transgender people are sometimes attacked in public restrooms, proponents say.
Nonetheless, the Massachusetts Family Institute is running radio commercials denouncing the legislation as a “bathroom bill” that would allow, especially, male sex criminals to prey on women and girls in restrooms and locker rooms. One woman tells another on a playground that if the legislation passes, it won’t be safe for her daughter use the restroom by herself anymore. Also, the website for the campaign uses a variety of images and threatening words — for instance, it shows a restroom door and the words “Who’s going to be waiting for your wife and daughter?”
State attorney general Martha Coakley has written a letter to legislators supporting the bill and denouncing the claims made by opponents. “Inherent in this harmful commentary,” she wrote, “is the implication that transgender individuals are sex offenders or sexually deviant persons. Not only is this characterization inaccurate, it is deeply offensive and insulting.” She added, “Contrary to some of the commentary, it does not extend any new protections to sex offenders. ... I believe this legislation is the next step in our forward path of extending equal protections to all citizens and eradicating discrimination in our Commonwealth.”