Right now, I should be worried about my college applications.
Right now, I should be focusing on balancing my work schedule and AP homework and spending time with my friends.
Right now, I shouldn’t be worried about my rights.
But on November 6th, the Public Accommodations bill will be up on the ballot in Massachusetts because of a referendum.
And on November 6th, I can’t vote. I’ll still be seventeen years old.
How do I begin the argument for a ‘yes’ vote on three? Should I start with the study that proves that there is no link between transgender public accommodations and bathroom crimes? Or the countless organizations supporting this, including the Massachusetts Police Department? How about the basic fact that the anti-discrimination laws that were in place before the Public Accommodations bill just didn’t work, as up to 73% of transgender people reported being harassed.
It seems like an easy yes. However, spread of misinformation is hurting the Public Accommodations Bill. People like Andrew Beckwith at the Massachusetts Family Institute are professionals at what they do – fear mongering.
Mr. Beckwith recently went on television to debate Mimi Lemay, a mother of a young transgender son. And while Mimi did a wonderful job at providing facts, and the moderator seemed to be on her side, Mr. Beckwith came out with blatantly false statements and still managed to dominate the conversation.
There are currently zero federal laws that explicitly prohibit gender identity based discrimination. However, it has been successfully argued in some court cases that laws against sex based discrimination apply in cases concerning gender identity.
In Massachusetts, there are anti-discrimination laws that also prohibit gender identity based discrimination concerning housing, employment, credit, and post-secondary education. These are protected by a bill signed into law by former Governor Deval Patrick in 2011. In October of 2016, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law Senate Bill 2407 (SB 2407), which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in public businesses or other public places. The election will affect the 2016 bill, and not the 2011 bill.
Ballotopedia.org has great resources about Question 3. Here’s some highlights:
- “SB 2407 added gender identity to a list of prohibited reasons for discrimination that included race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, and ancestry.”
- “The penalty for each violation of the law’s prohibition against discrimination in public places, including discrimination based on gender identity under SB 2407, was set to be (a) up to $100, (b) up to 30 days in prison, or (c) both.”
- “Gender identity is defined by state law as the gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior ‘sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity’ regardless of ‘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.’”
- Petitioners collected enough signatures to put the referendum on the ballot, but not enough to suspend SB 2407 until the election
I highly suggest you go onto the website and read more about the Question and look at the wonderful interactive graphic they provide.
Please do your best to go out and vote. Companies like Uber and Lyft are providing free or discounted rides to the polls on November 6th. The midterm elections are often downplayed because they don’t have a presidential election, but they are so, so, so important.
There’s so much up at stake this election. And the fact that there are countless of other kids like me, who are stuck in the same position. I feel helpless.
Stand on the right side of history, and make sure to protect transgender rights in Massachusetts this election by voting YES on Question 3.