Governor Charlie Baker endorsed Question 3, the ballot question that would uphold the state’s antidiscrimination law for transgender people, in an opinion piece published in the Rainbow Times, New England’s largest LGBTQ newspaper.
The Republican governor’s op-ed was published Friday, but surprised even coordinators of the ballot campaign, who circulated it on Saturday. Baker’s campaign did not advertise the news, which came out while the nation was transfixed by a fiery debate over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation as a Supreme Court justice.
“Governor Baker has come a long way on this issue, and like many people, decided it was important to pass and support this law after having had the chance to meet and get to know transgender people,” said Kasey Suffredini, campaign cochair of Freedom for All Massachusetts, which is pushing for a yes vote on Question 3. “The Governor’s support reminds us that voting Yes on 3 to uphold transgender protections is not a partisan issue.”
It was Baker who signed into law the transgender antidiscrimination measure that would now be repealed if the ballot question is defeated. But the law was politically problematic for him from the start, since he had objected to it in an earliest form when he ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010.
The law protects transgender people from discrimination in public places like hotels, stores, and restaurants but draws most opposition for allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their gender identity or their innate sense of self.
A Baker campaign spokesman, Terry MacCormack, said Baker had already been on record supporting the question in 2016. But he had not been visibly campaigning for the measure, which is opposed by many conservatives within his ranks and was launched by some of the same party activists who fought gay marriage in Massachusetts. Baker, a moderate who is popular among Democrats, often rankles those Republicans who are more motivated by social issues.
In his op-ed, Baker rebuked trying to repeal the transgender rights law, saying he is “troubled that some who oppose this law have organized an effort to repeal it.”
“While I support the ballot initiative process, I strongly believe that the Commonwealth should reject the repeal effort,” he wrote. “I look forward to voting ‘Yes’ on Question 3, to uphold the law at the ballot box this fall. I am confident that voters will join me, to re-affirm that the Commonwealth will not tolerate discrimination against our fellow citizens who are transgender.”
In the piece, the governor said his “support for the LGBTQ community is about more than just politics — it’s personal.”
He noted that his brother, who is gay, has been married to his husband for over 10 years and that his family is “incredibly grateful that Massachusetts led the way in ensuring marriage equality in 2004.”
“Today, Massachusetts is building on its historic role as a pioneer in ensuring equality for LGBTQ Americans,” he wrote.Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert