Two years ago, Massachusetts joined 17 states and Washington, D.C., by enacting protections for transgender individuals in any space — such as restaurants, libraries, and bathrooms — that serve the general public.
Opponents have vowed to repeal the law since the day Governor Charlie Baker unceremoniously signed it . And here we are today. On the Nov. 6 ballot, Massachusetts voters face a simple decision: to uphold common-sense public accommodations protections for transgender individuals by voting yes, or to set back equal access by voting no. The Globe wholeheartedly endorses the Yes on 3 campaign.
The No on 3 side is trying to stoke fears about the law, which allows people to use facilities that match their gender identities. The No side’s professed concern is the safety and privacy of children and women in restrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms, and that this law offers criminals a loophole to prey on them in public spaces.
But such arguments are not supported by evidence. Safety and privacy violations do occur in restrooms — and always have. But the existence of creeps and predators has nothing to do with the transgender law.
Researchers from the Williams Institute concluded that there is no relation between public transgender access and crimes that occur in bathrooms. The study, which was done before the statewide law went into effect in 2016, found there had been no difference between comparable Massachusetts cities that had adopted transgender policies and those that had not.
And in those rare instances when offenses do occur — regardless of who the offender is — they remain illegal. There is nothing in the transgender law that shields perpetrators. Whether intentional or not, the implicit message the no side is sending by linking transgender people to sexual violence is dangerous.
Just ask Mimi Lemay, a North Shore parent who has an 8-year-old transgender son, Jacob. She wrote an essay about her family’s journey after Jacob transitioned from female to male when he was just four. The story quickly went viral.
“I have to be in this fight,” Lemay said in a meeting with the Globe editorial board. “Just because I had experienced the obviousness of Jacob needing to be allowed to transition didn’t mean the rest of the world would see it the same way. I worry for him and other transgender kids who would have the kind of message perpetuated if this repeal goes through that they’re somehow a threat to public safety just by their very existence.”
The Yes on 3 campaign enjoys wide support from various stakeholders, such as labor unions, law enforcement groups, and sexual assault and domestic violence prevention groups. The Massachusetts business community has also thrown its full weight behind the campaign.
Unlike some other ballot questions Massachusetts voters have faced over the years, this is not a complex issue. What repeal opponents are pursuing is a solution in search of a problem. At a time when transgender rights are being threatened nationally in other areas, such as the military or health care access, now is the time to affirm equal rights protections for transgender individuals in Massachusetts by voting yes on 3.