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Transgender rights effort leads fund-raising battle on Question 3

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/File

The campaign working to preserve the state law that protects transgender people from discrimination continued to dominate fund-raising in the Question 3 ballot campaign, raking in nearly $777,000 in the most recent two-week filing period.

Keep MA Safe, the opposing campaign that launched the ballot question to try to repeal the state law on transgender rights, took in $220,949 during that same period. A spokeswoman for the campaign, Yvette Ollada, did not return phone calls. A second opposition campaign, called “No To 3,” took in $75 in two donations from its treasurer and chairman, filings at the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance show.


The sides are dueling over the Nov. 6 ballot question that asks voters whether they want to keep or repeal the state law that bars transgender discrimination in places of public accommodations like stores and restaurants. The vote is the first statewide referendum on transgender rights in the country and is being closely watched as a bellwether of popular sentiment during the Trump era. Repeal of the law in progressive Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, would be viewed as a major setback for LGBTQ people.

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Meanwhile, the campaign to protect transgender rights, called Freedom for All Massachusetts, has attracted national support from business and advocacy groups. Contributions over the past two weeks include $150,000 from the American Civil Liberties Union, $125,000 from the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and $40,000 from SEIU Local 509.

The campaign got its largest contribution yet, from Jan and Rick Cohen, the executive chairman of C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc., the largest wholesale grocery supply company in the United States. Each spouse and the company contributed a collective $250,000.

“Transgender people are our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and fellow residents, who want to work hard and take care of their families without fearing for their safety,” said Rick Cohen, who is also CEO of Symbotic LLC, a Wilmington developer of autonomous mobile robots. “If voters fail to ensure a victory for Yes on 3, it sends a message that not everyone is welcome or safe in Massachusetts.”


Other notable donations included $5,000 from Julie Goodridge, one of the plaintiffs in the case that led to gay marriage being legalized in Massachusetts, and $10,000 from Andrew Pang, a fund-raising consultant.

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The group pushing for a yes vote on transgender rights also took in $76,266 in in-kind contributions and spent $443,038 to end the period with $1.3 million on hand.

Significant contributions to Keep MA Safe, the main opposition group, included $100,000 from Winchester homemaker Carol Breuer; $100,000 from Dover retiree Raymond Ruddy; and $10,000 from the Family Policy Alliance, in Colorado. The opposition also accepted in-kind contributions worth $16,574 from the Massachusetts Family Institute, the group that led the fight against gay marriage in Massachusetts, and the Renew MA Coalition, led by former GOP state committeewoman Chanel Prunier. The opposition group ended the filing period with $33,900 on hand.

Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.