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Mass. Votes 'Yes' On Question 3 To Keep Law Protecting Transgender People In Public Accommodations

Supporters of Yes on Question 3 erupt as soon as the news breaks they have won. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
Supporters of Yes on Question 3 erupt as soon as the news breaks they have won. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Massachusetts voters have passed Question 3, an expected decision that upholds a two-year-old state law that protects transgender people in public accommodations.

With the vote, the 2016 state law allowing people to use bathrooms, locker rooms or other similar facilities that correspond with the gender with which they identify — instead of their assigned sex at birth — will remain on the books.

Supporters for 'Yes on 3' are ecstatic after the announcement of their win. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Supporters for 'Yes on 3' are ecstatic after the announcement of their win. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Mateo Cox waves a transgender flag excitedly as the room at the Fairmont Copley learns of the election day win. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Mateo Cox waves a transgender flag excitedly as the room at the Fairmont Copley learns of the election day win. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

As WBUR's Steve Brown previously reported, proponents repeatedly stressed the civil rights law "keeps Massachusetts welcoming and fair, protects transgender youths and adults and lets transgender people go about their daily lives, including the use of restrooms."

Throughout election season, WBUR polls and other polls showed support for maintaining the law consistently beat repealing the law by a wide margin.

Opponents of the law ran a campaign that warned the law would leave women and girls vulnerable to men who would use the law as an opportunity to assault or spy on them. As WBUR's Callum Borchers reported earlier, a June 2018 study by researchers in Boston and Davis, California, showed that since 2003, just 14 incidents involving men posing as women to access women's facilities for nefarious crimes have occurred in the U.S. None happened in Massachusetts.

There was some now-moot concern by the "Yes on 3" campaign that how Question 3 was written would confuse voters, but as WBUR's polling analyst Steve Koczela wrote in late September, voters seemed to get the unusual framing of the question. Casting a "yes" vote meant a voter wanted to keep the law; a "no" vote would repeal it. He explained that any confusion was not coming from the "yes" side.

Supporters of the 'Yes on 3' campaign celebrate victory when it is announced Massachusetts voters decided to uphold a law offering transgender people protections in public accommodations. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Supporters of the 'Yes on 3' campaign celebrate victory when it is announced Massachusetts voters decided to uphold a law offering transgender people protections in public accommodations. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Officials at the University of Massachusetts system will undoubtedly be pleased with the result of this ballot initiative, as they anticipated legal challenges over its leadership's promises to continue allowing anyone using facilities at its five campuses to choose public accommodations linked to their gender identity.

As WBUR's Martha Bebinger reported shortly before Election Day, it has becoming increasingly common for public places in Massachusetts — such as libraries, museums, hospitals and restaurants — to offer gender-neutral bathrooms.

Bathroom signs from Tufts Health Plan, left, the American Repertory Theater, center, and UMass Boston (Courtesy of Tufts and Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Bathroom signs from Tufts Health Plan, left, the American Repertory Theater, center, and UMass Boston (Courtesy of Tufts and Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Somewhat ironically, the same 2018 study out of MGH, Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital and UC Davis reports that in 1887, Massachusetts was the first state to pass a law mandating workplace toilets be separated by sex.

Related:

Lisa Creamer Twitter Digital News Editor and Producer
Lisa Creamer is a digital editor and producer at WBUR.

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