The Campaign to Preserve Massachusetts’ Trans Protections Was Successful Because It Centered Trans People

by Alex Barasch
November 7, 2018


The outcome of a Massachusetts ballot measure may offer a glimpse of what comes next for transgender rights nationwide. Yesterday, roughly 68 percent of respondents in the state said “yes” to Question 3, upholding existing nondiscrimination protections on the basis of gender identity. The vote marked the first time trans rights have come up for a statewide referendum—and a rare success in the face of the “bathroom predator” myth that has plagued the community for years.

While Massachusetts has a strong record on LGBTQ rights, people and organizations on both sides of the battle over Question 3 took nothing for granted. Those within Massachusetts and beyond treated it as a crucial test case that could encourage similar challenges elsewhere, and allocated resources accordingly: Per reports from the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, the “No on 3” initiative received tens of thousands in donations from out-of-state conservative activists like Sean Fieler, as well as groups like the Family Policy Alliance, an arm of Focus on the Family with a history of spreading misinformation about trans people.

Despite such right-wing opposition at the national level, Senate Bill 2407 and the effort to preserve it have received bipartisan support. It was signed into law in 2016 by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who personally donated to the “Yes on 3” campaign when it later came under threat. (He also won re-election last night, while James Lyons Jr., who first introduced the petition to repeal it, lost his seat in the state’s House of Representatives.)

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