Massachusetts Voters Will Determine Whether to Uphold Transgender Protections in Historic Vote

Massachusetts voters have the opportunity to solidify legal protections for transgender individuals on Tuesday.

On the ballot is Question 3, which if passed by referendum would "add gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement." The measure, if affirmed, would uphold a law the Bay State legislature passed in 2016.

"A YES VOTE would keep in place the current law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in places of public accommodation," writes Freedom for All Massachusetts, a non-profit group that promotes transgender equality. "NO VOTE would repeal this provision of the public accommodation law."

Keep Massachusetts Safe has raised more than $442,000 to convince voters to repeal the law that provides protection to transgender people," Boston University noted on Monday, "while the Freedom for All Massachusetts group has raised substantially more— nearly $5 million—to persuade voters to keep the law in place."

"Places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement" means any place that grants access to and accepts patronage from the general public, "such as hotels, stores, restaurants, theaters, sports facilities, and hospitals," may not discriminate based on gender identity, regardless of a person's birth anatomy.

"'Gender identity' is defined as a person’s sincerely held gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior," Freedom Massachusetts explains, "whether or not it is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth."

If passed, Question 3 will require places of public congregation to grant access to gender-specific facilities, such as bathrooms, "consistent with a person's gender identity."

Additionally, the law prohibits placing signage advertising discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Support for Question 3 is strong among Massachusetts voters. As of the end of October, polling shows that two-thirds of voters plan to vote 'Yes' on 3.

Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy (D), up for reelection, said Tuesday morning that voting 'Yes' on Question 3 represents "an opportunity to stand up against discrimination and bigotry."

Democratic House candidate Ayanna Pressley tweeted on Monday the importance of working to "defend the rights and dignity of our transgender neighbors."

As did actor and activist George Takei.

As did transgender actor Laverne Cox, best known for Orange is the New Black.

And the Human Rights Campaign.

And the American Civil Liberties Union.

For many, the issue is deeply personal.

Civil rights and equal protection under the law need to be protected.

Donna Howard, a voter whose son is transgender, explains why she supports upholding Question 3.

"For him, it makes them feel safer, as I've been told," Howard said. "They feel as though they can go and just be who they are. It made it, emotionally, much better for him to handle."

Polls are open in Massachusetts until 8 P.M.

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