Massachusetts’ Transgender Protections Will Be on the Ballot in November

The law, passed in 2016, protects the rights of trans people to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity.

Voters in Massachusetts will decide in November if the state’s transgender protections will stay put or be overturned.

In 2016, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill into law that outlawed discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations. Secretary of State William Galvin assigned numbers to the questions this week after certifying that sponsors successfully completed all the necessary steps to qualify for the November 6 ballot.

transgender rights protest
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On the steps of the Massachusetts State House, July 11, 2016, Leon and Dianne Monnin of Medford, who have a son (not pictured) who is transgender, shared an emotional moment during the celebration of the public accommodations bill becoming law.

The transgender rights referendum will appear as Question 3, the Associated Press reports, and will ask:

A “yes” vote would keep in place the law, which prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations, including public restrooms and locker rooms. A “no” vote would repeal the law.

“No one should be discriminated against in Massachusetts because of their gender identity,” Baker said in 2016. “This compromise legislation extends additional protections to the Commonwealth’s transgender community, and includes language to address the public safety concerns expressed by some by requiring the Attorney General to issue regulations to protect against people abusing the law.”

Massachusetts bathroom bill protesters
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Protesters demonstrating against the public accommodations law outside the State House as the House was in session to debate the bill, June 1, 2016.

The compromise refers to language added that “directs the Massachusetts attorney general’s office to issue regulations or guidance for referring to law enforcement any person whose assertion of a gender identity is for an improper purpose.”

If the state chooses to move backwards on transgender rights, it would be following in the footsteps of the Trump administration, which rescinded an Obama-era directive instructing public schools to respect the gender identities of trans students and allow them to use the bathrooms and locker rooms matching their identity.

The Department of Education confirmed earlier this year that it would not hear transgender students’ complaints regarding public accommodations at their schools.

In addition to the question regarding bathroom and locker room use, Massachusetts voters will decide if there should be stricter nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals in the state, as well as the possible creation of a commission that would seek a potential amendment to the U.S. Constitution to override Citizens United.

Journalist based in Charlotte, North Carolina, whose work has appeared in The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing, and more.