Updated: Massachusetts Voters Uphold Transgender Nondiscrimination Law, Reactions

Transgender Nondiscrimination
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State becomes first in U.S. history to successfully defend transgender rights by popular vote  

BOSTON—Tonight Massachusetts voters firmly supported a “Yes” vote on Question 3, upholding the state’s transgender nondiscrimination law and becoming the first state in the United States history to successfully defend basic protections for their transgender neighbors at the ballot box.

“Massachusetts made history tonight, both for our transgender neighbors who call this state home and for transgender people across this nation,” said Kasey Suffredini, Yes on 3 Campaign co-chair and President of Strategy at Freedom for All Americans. “From the very early days of our campaign, we have been clear that this is about dignity and respect for all people. Together, we have shattered broken stereotypes of what it means to be transgender and debunked the myth – once and for all – that protecting transgender people compromises the safety of others. Winning this popular vote is irrefutable proof that public support for transgender people is growing, and tonight’s outcome will provide the necessary momentum to change the landscape on transgender rights everywhere.”

The vote puts Massachusetts on the map as the first state in the nation to uphold transgender protections at the ballot box.

“Yesterday’s vote made history for transgender people, both in Massachusetts and across the country,” said MassEquality’s Executive Director, Deborah Shields, in a statement released today. “Massachusetts has a long history of supporting fairness and inclusion. With yesterday’s vote on Question 3, the people decisively affirmed the values of justice and equality that are the hallmarks of our Commonwealth. Thousands of voters across Massachusetts went to the polls to defend everyone’s right to use and enjoy public spaces without fear of discrimination.” 

Although final results are not in yet, the Yes On 3 campaign more than doubled the opposition’s votes. In the last few days, the campaign brought in Orange is the New Black‘s actress and transgender activist Laverne Cox, to secure a win on the ballot.

“Voters here in Massachusetts have sent a powerful, unmistakable message that this is a state that values, welcomes, and honors transgender people,” said Mason Dunn, Yes on 3 Campaign co-chair and Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. “We could not have been successful without the transgender people and their families who stepped forward and courageously shared their stories, as well as the countless others who worked behind the scenes and propelled us forward. This campaign also allowed us to engage thousands of new allies who are ready to stand with us in the work that remains for full transgender equality here in Massachusetts and across America.”

In 2011, advocates in Massachusetts updated the state’s nondiscrimination law to include protections for transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, and education. In 2015, Freedom for All Massachusetts launched to update the law to include protection for transgender people in public places, including restaurants, stores, doctors’ offices, and more. The coalition engaged hundreds of civic, business, and community leaders throughout Massachusetts, and the legislature successfully passed – with a bipartisan, supermajority vote – these historic protections.

“We’re so excited about this win for our community and for the country,” said Dunn to The Rainbow Times. “This is a clear message to the country that trans rights are human rights.”

Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill into law in July 2016 and came in full support for the law last month via an Op-Ed in The Rainbow Times. Shortly after it went into effect in October 2016, a small group of opponents gathered the minimum number of signatures required to place the law on the ballot for repeal. For more than two years, Freedom for All Massachusetts, the official ballot committee of Yes on 3, worked to ensure voters would stand with the transgender community on Election Day.

The Yes on 3 campaign was staffed by more than 70 paid employees and more than 4,000 volunteers who filled more than 15,000 shifts.

Collectively, Yes on 3 staff and volunteers knocked on more than 300,000 doors and made more than 2 million phone calls, resulting in more than 100,000 conversations with voters across Massachusetts.

The campaign was governed by an executive committee – half of whom are transgender people, including the two campaign co-chairs – representing a number of local and national LGBTQ advocacy organizations including: ACLU Massachusetts, BAGLY (Boston Alliance of Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Youth), Fenway Health, Freedom for All Americans, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, Greater Boston PFLAG, Human Rights Campaign, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, and MassEquality.

Yes on 3 raised more than $5 million from a wide range of people and organizations, including more than $1 million from the local business community. About 90 percent of donors to the campaign were from in-state.

The campaign’s groundbreaking ad strategy included a first-of-its-kind focus on the lives of transgender young people impacted by nondiscrimination protections as well public safety experts who debunked myths about restrooms.

Boasting more than 1,500 strong, the coalition supporting the Yes on 3 campaign was among the most diverse and broad of any ballot campaign in recent Massachusetts history, and the largest ballot campaign on transgender rights in U.S. history. Support came from the LGBTQ community, businesses large and small, labor unions, law enforcement, sexual assault prevention advocates, faith leaders, the region’s professional sports franchises, educators, parents, and many more.

 Freedom for All Massachusetts is the coalition that upheld the state’s current nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public places like restaurants, retail shops and hospitals, ensuring that Massachusetts continues to be a national leader on equality and fairness for all.

[From a News Release – Story Continues to Develop]

Others React To The Yes On 3 Victory

Boston Area Rape Crisis Center Statement on Question 3

BOSTON—Today, Massachusetts voters rejected an attempt to repeal a 2016 law prohibiting public accommodations discrimination against transgender people. Boston Area Rape Crisis Center Executive Director Gina Scaramella offered the following statement in response:
“This is an important victory for transgender people, their families, and our entire state. Every resident deserves dignity, respect, and safety in public places like restaurants, retail stories, and public restrooms. Although those who sought to repeal our 2016 civil rights law falsely claimed otherwise, the truth is that treating all residents with dignity and respect is a powerful tool for preventing sexual assault and harassment. The 2016 law that voters elected to keep today increases the safety of us all.

“We know from our work that protecting transgender people from discrimination has zero negative consequences on the safety of women and children—including, and most especially, those women and children who are transgender. We also know that transgender people themselves face some of the highest rates of sexual violence: nearly one in two have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime. The survivors of sexual assault that I know at BARCC never wanted this law repealed in their name.

“The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center serves people of all genders, including women, men, and people who are nonbinary, genderqueer, gender-nonconforming, intersex, and transgender. We were proud to be part of the over 1,500 coalition partners who worked to keep civil rights protections for transgender people intact in the Commonwealth.”

Founded in 1973, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center has a mission to end sexual violence through healing and social change. BARCC provides free, confidential support and services to all survivors of sexual violence ages 12 and up and their families and friends throughout Greater Boston. It works with survivors regardless of when the assault occurred, and its goal is to empower survivors to heal and seek justice. BARCC also works with a wide range of organizations and communities, including schools, colleges, and police, to advocate for change. It provides training in how to respond to survivors and create cultures that prevent sexual violence in the first place. Follow BARCC on social media: Twitter @barcc; Instagram @barccofficial; Facebook/barcc.org.

MASSCreative Statement on Question 3

Today, Massachusetts voters approved Ballot Question 3, which preserves a 2016 law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in public places. MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson offered the following statement in response:

“We congratulate transgender residents and their families, as well as the rest of the state, on this important electoral defense of the 2016 civil rights law. Transgender people must have the same basic protections enjoyed by everyone else in Massachusetts so they can live their lives with safety, privacy, and dignity. Although much of the focus on this law centered on access to public restrooms, the law also prohibits discrimination in museums, theaters, and art galleries.

“Creativity in all its forms helps build more vibrant, equitable and connected communities and every resident, regardless of gender identity, must be able to safely access the spaces in which we display, express, and showcase art. Today, the arts community joined others across the state in voting yes on Question 3, and we are proud of our participation in the coalition to preserve civil rights protections for transgender residents.”

MASSCreative works with artists, cultural councils, arts organizations and the broader creative community to build a Commonwealth where arts and creativity are an expected, recognized, and valued part of everyday life. Working with our coalition of 400 arts and cultural organizations and artists from across the Commonwealth, MASSCreative uses public education and awareness, grassroots organizing, advocacy campaigns, and other civic and political engagement to ensure that arts, culture, and creativity are considered when important policy and political decisions get made at the state and local level. 


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