Massachusetts voters have upheld a law assuring transgender people’s right to the public accommodations of their choice, in the first statewide popular vote on trans rights.
Question 3, which asked voters to preserve the law, “passed by a clear margin,” according to The Republican of Springfield, Mass.
The Massachusetts legislature had passed the law in 2016, adding public accommodations to the state’s existing law against anti-transgender discrimination in employment. The public accommodations provision includes access to the public restrooms and changing rooms of a person’s choice as well as retailers, hotels, hospitals, and other venues. Opponents of the law gathered enough petition signatures to put it before voters.
As of about 10 p.m. Eastern, with a third of precincts reporting, 68 percent of ballots showed “yes” votes, to preserve the law, and 32 percent “no,” the Associated Press reports.
The outcome was markedly different from the last popular vote on trans rights, a citywide one in 2015 in Houston, where voters repealed the LGBTQ-inclusive Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
LGBTQ rights groups were jubilant about the Massachusetts win. “Tonight’s victory illuminates the path forward amidst a particularly dark time for transgender Americans across the nation,” said a statement released by Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. “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. Freedom for All Americans’ mission is to ensure that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination no matter the state they call home — and that includes the transgender young people who helped lead this campaign to victory. Massachusetts is a safer and more equitable place to call home tonight — and we’re committed to winning nondiscrimination protections in all of the other 31 states without explicit laws. We’ve permanently reframed what it means to treat transgender people with dignity and respect, and this campaign will serve as a roadmap for future victories.”
“Massachusetts has set a clear precedent for every state and territory,” added Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality: When anyone comes for our rights, we and our allies will fight back and we will win. We will not be bullied and we will push against every myth and lie spread in the name of hatred. Particularly under a presidential administration hostile to the rights of transgender people, victories like this are all the more important. No transgender person should have to live their life in fear of prejudice, and we will always fight to protect strong, clear laws supporting our rights as full members of society.”
“Voters in Massachusetts made history tonight and sent a clear message that transgender rights are human rights,” said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “The personal stories of so many transgender people in Massachusetts coupled with support from allies in business, faith communities, sports, and so many areas of the state, shattered stereotypes and sparked this historic show of acceptance. This victory for transgender people all around the country is the latest sign that the Trump administration’s attempts to discriminate against transgender Americans are completely out of step with where the American public is.”
The Human Rights Campaign likewise praised the win. “At a critical moment in the fight for equality, Massachusetts voters sent a powerful message that transgender people are loved and welcomed in the Bay State,” said HRC president Chad Griffin. “From North Carolina and Virginia to Alaska and Massachusetts, we have demonstrated that when we stand together and fight back against attacks on our progress, we win. The LGBTQ community is indebted to the courage of so many transgender people — particularly young people — who opened hearts, changed minds and laid the foundation for this victory, and the Human Rights Campaign is proud to have been a part of the historic work of the Yes on 3 Campaign.”
“Transgender residents of Massachusetts can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their hard-fought protections will remain in place,” added HRC national press pecretary Sarah McBride, one of HRC’s representatives on the Yes on 3 Executive Committee. “This was a crucial test for our community and movement. The Yes on 3 Campaign demonstrated that when we tell the stories of transgender people and our families, voters will reject the scare tactics and side with dignity and equality.”