Critics pursue bid to roll back state's new transgender law
BOSTON >> Opponents of a transgender rights law said Wednesday they had collected enough signatures to continue their campaign to roll back the landmark measure.
City and town clerks had certified more than 32,375 signatures of registered voters, the number needed to place a repeal question on the 2018 state ballot, the Massachusetts Family Institute said. The signatures must also be verified by Secretary of State William Galvin's office.
The law approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in July bars discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations. Among other things it would allow individuals to use the bathroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identities.
The repeal effort does not stop the law from going into effect as scheduled on Saturday. Since the question could not be placed on the ballot until 2018, the law will already have been on the books for more than two years before voters might consider it.
Freedom Massachusetts, which led a yearslong effort to pass the transgender bill, called the repeal effort "harmful" and predicted that voters would keep the law if it reached the ballot.
"We will not know until the signature verification process is complete whether this attempt to strip our Commonwealth's transgender young people, adults and families of basic nondiscrimination protections has qualified for the 2018 ballot," the group's co-chairs, Kasey Suffredini and Mason Dunn, said in statement. "What we do know is that this Saturday these critical protections go into effect statewide, ensuring that all Massachusetts residents will finally be free of discrimination in public places like restaurants and hospitals."
Seventeen other states have similar laws, but Massachusetts was the first in 2016 to approve transgender protections after several legislative setbacks for advocates in other states.
A North Carolina law that directs people to use restrooms that match the gender identity on their birth certificates prompted a backlash that included the NBA's decision to move its All-Star game from Charlotte. The NCAA also pulled several major events from North Carolina and several entertainers, including Bruce Springsteen, canceled concerts over objections to the North Carolina law.
Opponents of the Massachusetts law, who have formed a ballot question committee called Keep MA Safe, argue it could put women and children at risk by allowing male sexual predators to claim gender identity as a pretense for entering bathrooms or locker rooms.
The law includes language that would prohibit a person from asserting gender identity for any "improper purpose," which would include intent to commit a crime.
Guidance on the new law recently issued by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and state Attorney General Maura Healey instructs businesses to presume that a patron is using the appropriate bathroom or locker room unless there is a compelling reason to seek proof of gender identity.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.