Anti-Transgender Campaign in Massachusetts Resorts to Fear Tactics

New ad raises bathroom fears ahead of ballot measure to uphold or repeal the state’s transgender non-discrimination law.

By Mila Madison

The new ad by political group “Keep MA Safe” was recently released as Massachusetts voters are set for a November vote on Question 3, a ballot measure which will decide whether the state will retain its non-discrimination law against anti-trans discrimination in public accommodations, which includes restrooms and locker rooms. Originally signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in 2016, the law that has been in place for two years has been placed on the ballot as a result of a voter-initiated referendum.

The 30 second spot features a woman entering a restroom while a hooded man is watching her from a bathroom stall. The woman then begins to unbutton her shirt as the camera pans to her frightened and gasping as the man opens the stall door.

“What does Massachusetts Question 3 mean to you?” asks the female voiceover in the ad. “It means any man who says he is a woman can enter a woman’s locker room, dressing room or bathroom at any time, even convicted sex offenders, and if you see something suspicious and say something to authorities, you could be the one arrested and fined up to $50,000.” The voiceove concludes with: “Vote No on 3. This bathroom bill puts our privacy and safety at risk. It goes too far.”

The ad echoes similar tactics used by anti-transgender groups to strike down protective measures such as Houston’s 2015 proposed “HERO” law. Similar tactics have also used in North Carolina and Alaska.

The opposition to transgender protections comes despite a recent study released by the Williams Institute, which found the state’s public accommodations nondiscrimination laws that include gender identity do not affect the number or frequency of criminal incidents in restrooms, locker rooms or changing rooms. In addition, reports of privacy and safety violations in these places are exceedingly rare. The results also showed that immediately after the laws’ passage, there were fewer incidents of privacy and safety violations in places with gender-identity inclusive public accommodations laws than in comparable areas without the laws.

A vote of “yes” on Question 3 would keep the current law in place, while a “no” vote would repeal the portion of the law that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in public places.

The “Yes on 3” campaign led by “Freedom for all Massachusetts” has responded in kind by releasing their own 2 minute video featuring transgender people and their families discussing the dangers and discrimination they would face should the law be repealed.

According to the “Yes on 3” campaign, the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence have come out favor of keeping the statewide protections in place.

A recent poll by Suffolk University/Boston Globe sound that 73 percent of Massachusetts voters favor keeping the law in place while 17 percent are in favor of repealing it. Nine percent of those who were polled are currently undecided.

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