Last year, Massachusetts joined 18 states and 200 towns in standing up for all its citizens. Backed by a majority of voters, the legislature passed a landmark bill protecting transgender people from discrimination in all public places — from restaurants, to movie theaters, to stores and public parks.
The bill was a hard-fought example of Massachusetts’ leadership, built on support from civil rights advocates, businesses, and other allies. It succeeded with the help of politicians on both sides of the aisle, despite opposition from outside groups. Now, those outside groups are back, and the victory we won is at risk.
Next November’s ballot will have a new referendum on transgender rights. It’s designed to confuse voters into making a historic mistake. With enough “no” votes, the referendum will make Massachusetts the first state to roll back transgender rights at the ballot box — and give gender-based discrimination the cover of law.
It’s hard to list all the ways this change would hurt Massachusetts. The cost to our economy would be real and measurable, as North Carolina learned last year, when its HB2 bill pushed millions in tourism and talent to other states. The practical cost would be just as real, for those who could no longer enjoy a meal or a movie out, just because of their gender.
The biggest costs, however, are moral. Transgender rights are under attack in this country — from President Trump’s attempt to bar transgender people from the military, to state legislators’ attempt to deny healthcare to transgender youth. Joining that attack wouldn’t just be shortsighted. It would be wrong, and an affront to the values our commonwealth represents — of openness, tolerance, and the opportunity to live freely as you are.
This is about fairness, and we can do better. The groups favoring this effort are the same ones that opposed marriage equality, and we should expect them to use fear and misinformation to in the months ahead. Next November, when a ballot question asks you if you support transgender rights, check “yes.” Make sure your leaders know to stand up against bigotry, and defend all the people they represent.
Quentin Palfrey is a Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. He previously served as Senior Advisor for Jobs & Competitiveness in President Obama’s White House Office of Science & Technology Policy and as Chief of the Health Care Division in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. More information about his campaign is available here: www.quentinpalfrey.com