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Answering Question 3

How well do you understand the ballot question on transgender protections?

By Patrick Garvin and Stephanie Ebbert

This fall, Massachusetts voters will decide whether to keep or repeal the state’s transgender antidiscrimination law. The law, enacted in 2016 and signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker, added gender identity to the list of reasons people can’t be discriminated against in public spaces.

What places are covered by the law?

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The law covers all “places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement.” Workplaces and schools are covered under separate nondiscrimination laws.

“Places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement” include...

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According to the Secretary of State’s website, a “place of public accommodation, resort or amusement” is “any place that is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public.” This includes a wide range of public places, such as hotels, stores, restaurants, theaters, hospitals, and sports facilities.

A vote for "yes" would...

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A vote of “Yes” would keep in place the current law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in places of public accommodation. A vote of “No” would repeal this provision of the public accommodation law.

How many other states have laws that prohibit discrimination in public spaces on basis of gender identity?

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As of the summer of 2018, 20 states, plus Washington, D.C., have laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

What does “gender identity” mean?

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Gender identity refers to someone’s internal sense of their gender. As defined under Massachusetts law, that means “a person’s gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth.” The law also says it should not be claimed for any improper purpose.

Who decides which restroom is appropriate for you to use?

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Because gender identity refers to someone’s internal, deeply held sense of self, it is not checked outside the restroom door. Opponents say that creates an opportunity for abuse — for instance, a male predator could walk into a ladies’ room unchecked. State law does say, however, that gender identity must be sincerely held and should not be asserted for any improper purpose, and that anyone who commits a crime could still be arrested.

In Massachusetts, shoppers currently use the bathroom of their gender identity in which retail stores?

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Target drew opposition — and national calls for boycotts — after the retailer publicized its transgender-friendly policy in April 2016. But in Massachusetts, company policy is irrelevant. Every store, mall, and shopping center has had to comply with the state law since summer 2016.

Is there evidence that bathroom crime has increased since the law went into effect two years ago?

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No. Opponents who raise public safety concerns often point to anecdotal reports of voyeurism in fitting rooms and bathrooms but can’t point to any cases in Massachusetts in which a perpetrator claimed to be transgender. The first peer-reviewed study on the subject seeking an association between transgender access and criminal incidents found no such link. Researchers at the Williams Institute, a think tank focused on gender identity at the UCLA School of Law, examined restroom crime reports in Massachusetts cities before the law took effect statewide. Looking at cities of similar size and comparable demographics, the researchers found no difference between cities that had adopted local transgender antidiscrimination policies and those that had not.

What other categories are protected from discrimination in places of public accommodation in Massachusetts?

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Here’s the specific language: The Attorney General's Office enforces state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination in places of public accommodation. The Massachusetts Public Accommodation Law (M.G.L c. 272, §§ 92A, 98 and 98A) prohibits, among other things, making any distinction, discrimination, or restriction in admission to or treatment in a place of public accommodation based on race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, deafness, blindness, or any physical or mental disability, or ancestry.

How many transgender adults live in Massachusetts?

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There’s no exact number, but a 2016 study by The Williams Institute estimated the number to be 29,900. Here’s how that estimate breaks down by age group:

According to this report, transgender adults accounted for 0.57% of Massachusetts adults.