That Anti-Trans Ballot Measure in Massachusetts Was Defeated

In Massachusetts in November, citizens will vote on whether the state's trans citizens should be afforded equal rights—rights that were already signed into law by the state's governor in late 2016.

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Update: Good news—Massachusetts voted "Yes" on 3, meaning that the anti-trans ballot measure failed and the existing law to protect trans citizens in public places remains.

In Massachusetts in November, citizens will vote on whether the state's trans citizens should be afforded equal rights—rights that were already signed into law by the state's governor in late 2016. Then, the state passed Senate Bill 2407, which protected trans citizens from discrimination in public places, like restrooms. Heralded as a landmark victory for civil rights activists in the state, a single measure on the upcoming November 6 ballot—Massachusetts' Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Veto Referendum—would undo all of it.

Both the ACLU and the Freedom For All Massachusetts campaign are fervently fighting what's known in the state as Question 3, which will see residents of Massachusetts voting "YES" or "NO" on the ballot. (By answering "YES," residents will vote to uphold the existing law that protects the state's trans citizens; if they answer "NO," they'll vote to eliminate it.) The idea is that the changes wrought by the state's anti-discrimination bill are jeopardizing non-trans citizens' safety, which is utterly false, according to a UCLA study.

ACLU attorney and activist Chase Strangio wrote on Twitter: "I am horrified and disheartened." Strangio linked the uptick of anti-civil rights measures and legislation like that of Massachusetts to the advent of Trump's administration, adding: "In Massachusetts, a ballot measure that is literally aimed at erasing trans people from public life is getting no attention. State legislatures are gearing up across the country to attack us. And no one is watching."

In a June poll conducted by the Suffolk Research Center, a significant number of citizens indicated that they were likely to vote "NO" on the poll, thus risking the 2016 law being repeated. With 49 percent of those polled saying they would vote "YES," other respondents said they were either undecided or preparing to vote against the law.

It's been suggested by the Boston Globe and others that the wording on the ballot is part of the issue, and that voters may well be confused about what "YES" and "NO" in these instances mean for the law, exactly. This has prompted the Freedom For All Massachusetts campaign to coin the phrase "YES on 3," which aims to simplify the process—if you support trans rights, just vote "YES" on Question 3.

As Strangio suggests, the measure is one of many designed to strip away the progress made towards LGBTQ rights in the last several years. Just yesterday, the Trump administration announced its intent to refuse U.S. visas to same-sex partners of diplomats, essentially forcing them to live apart, assuming the partner does not have a valid visa, until or unless they marry.

Whether you're in in Massachusetts or otherwise, you can learn about how to fight the ballot measure here.

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Jenny Hollander
Director of Content Strategy

Jenny is the Director of Content Strategy at Marie Claire. Originally from London, she moved to New York in 2012 to attend the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and never left. Prior to Marie Claire, she spent five years at Bustle building out its news and politics coverage. She loves, in order: her dog, goldfish crackers, and arguing about why umbrellas are fundamentally useless. Her first novel, EVERYONE WHO CAN FORGIVE ME IS DEAD, will be published by Minotaur Books in 2024.