As we all head to the polls on election day, a critically important ballot question awaits us that could have a huge impact here locally, and across the nation.
Question 3 asks whether or not Massachusetts will uphold the nondiscrimination law that was signed by Governor Charlie Baker in 2016. A “Yes” vote maintains these historic protections. The law protects transgender people from discrimination and harassment in public places such as restaurants, retail shops, and medical offices. It also protects transgender people from discrimination in public restrooms and locker rooms. For most of the Massachusetts population, Question 3 is just another ballot measure. For me, and other citizens of the Commonwealth like me, however, it means the world. I am transgender.
When the law was passed through the legislature with a bipartisan, supermajority vote in 2016, it was a major victory for Massachusetts. The initiative sent a message to the transgender community that we are accepted, valued and safe under the law. It also reinforced the notion that Massachusetts is a state that treats all its residents equally with dignity and respect, regardless of gender identity or expression.
Shortly after this law went into effect in October 2016, a small group of opponents gathered the minimum number of signatures required to place the law on the ballot for repeal. Anti-transgender activists making the case for the no vote are using scare tactics to try to convince the public that the safety of women and children is in jeopardy by protecting transgender people from discrimination and harassment in public spaces, particularly restrooms. There is no data to support this claim — in fact the numbers show the exact opposite.
Since the law was implemented two years ago, there has been no increase in public safety incidents, including incidents in public restrooms. Safety in restrooms is important to all of us — including transgender people. Harassing people in public facilities remains illegal and those who commit crimes are prosecuted, as they should be. The law in question hasn’t changed that. In fact, leading safety officials — including the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence — wouldn’t support it if it did.
I know the people of Massachusetts support the rights and dignity of all people. That spirit of equality is the reason I’m proud to call the Commonwealth my home. On Nov. 6, I hope you will join me in upholding that spirit by voting Yes on 3.
Mason Dunn is a transgender man and co-chair of the Yes on 3 campaign.