Voters Reject Anti-Trans Policy in Massachusetts Victory

Question 3 sought to eliminate transgender protections in Massachusetts—but the latest legal assault against trans rights failed at the voting booth on Tuesday.

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Nov 7 2018, 3:41am

Photo by joakimbkk via Getty Images.

Transgender protections have been under intense scrutiny since news broke about a Trump Administration memo that outlined plans to eliminate trans people from anti-discrimination laws. While that issue is nebulous and will continue to play out in the long term, trans rights were literally on the ballot in Massachusetts on Tuesday during the midterm elections. Question 3 asked voters whether they wanted to uphold transgender protections that prohibit discrimination against trans people in public spaces, like restrooms. The ballot initiative, which sought to undermine trans people's protections, was pushed with a bigoted advertisement campaign, including a video depicting a young girl being stalked into a women's restroom by a predatory man. On Tuesday, voters rejected the initiative, voting to uphold transgender protections.

As ACLU attorney Chase Strangio wrote for Broadly in October, Question 3 was a response to the significant progress made for trans people back in 2016, when a bill was passed prohibiting discrimination against trans people in public accommodations, allowing them to use the public restrooms associated with their self identified gender. That's not an easy law to pass. Just think about Charlotte, North Carolina, which tried to do the same and subsequently faced backlash by the state, which drafted an anti-trans bill called House Bill 2 (HB2) that undid the progress Charlotte had done, and threw NC into financial chaos, costing the state more than $3 billion. According to Strangio, securing trans protections in MA in 2016 was "the result of decades of work by trans people and our allies."

Without laws that enable trans people to use public restrooms that match their self-identified gender, trans people are either forced to put themselves at risk of harassment or violence in the bathroom associated with their sex assigned at birth, or being driven out of public life altogether. We already know that trans people face enormous levels of prejudice and harassment; anti-discrimination laws are needed to combat a culture that is already out of control.

That's why it was so alarming to see a serious effort being made by conservative extremists in liberal Massachusetts. These battles are hard-fought, and the lives and safety of transgender Americans depend upon them. According to Strangio, Question 3 was the "first statewide vote of its kind—to repeal legal protections for trans people." The fact that this vote was specifically designed to take away existent rights is a sign that anti-transgender legal battles are as strong as ever, and that conservative political powers would literally like to roll back culture to a time before transgender equality could even be possible. And this is precisely what the Trump administration is plotting to do, according to the memo revealed by the New York Times: revoke protections that already exist.

Tuesday's success is owed to the many people who fought hard the last several months in support of Question 3. Massachusetts is known for being a blue state. The democratic attitudes in MA show an example for how progressive government can serve citizens, which is another reason that the anti-trans ballot initiative in MA was so disturbing—if trans rights can be threatened to potentially be taken out of the law in a liberal state, what does that mean for the rest of the nation?