Our Opinion: Stand up for state transgender laws
Massachusetts was ahead of the curve in moving to protect the rights and civil liberties of transgender students. The Trump administration is seeking to undermine those rights at the federal level, but the White House's assertion that state laws should come first could work in Massachusetts' favor in seeking to protect those rights.
Last year, the state Legislature passed and Governor Baker signed into law a landmark bill assuring transgender students the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity. At the federal level, The Obama administration delivered a series of directives over the past two years declaring that denying transgender public school students those rights would violate federal anti-discrimination laws. Opponents of these laws assert that sexual molesters could take advantage of them to enter women's restrooms, even though there is no recorded incident of this having happened in the U.S. In fact, unless security guards are placed at women's restrooms, potential molesters can enter them without masquerading as transsexuals.
The Trump administration asserts that the Obama White House directives were not backed by adequate legal analysis, which has emerged as its one-size-fits-all criticism of any White House actions or orders it doesn't care for. The Trump administration adds that President Obama's actions on transgender rights should be abandoned because they drew legal challenges. By that logic, the president should abandon his ban on immigrants from seven countries that have been successfully blocked by legal challenges.
At a press conference Thursday, Attorney General Maura Healey, joined by Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, promised to fight the federal directive and protect Massachusetts laws protecting the rights of transexual students and transexuals in general. The Trump administration directive that there must be "due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy" was surely designed to support states that do not advocate transgender rights. By encouraging a state-by-state approach, however, the administration hands Massachusetts an argument that the White House implicitly backs its right to maintain its transgender rights law..
An effort is in progress to repeal the Massachusetts transgender rights law by referendum in November of 2018. By taking civil rights away that have been provided by law, the proposed referendum may fail Constitutional muster before even it even gets on the ballot. Opponents should try to imagine themselves in the place of a transgender student who is not harming anyone and is struggling to fit in at school, where tolerance for those who are different in any way is not ordinarily high. There is no harm in a law that gives those students a helping hand.
The repeal effort in the state is based on myths about and fears of transsexuals, who are statistically victims of prejudice, not sexual predators. The Trump White House directive is no better and should be resisted.
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