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Activists Say They Have Signatures Needed To Put Repeal Of Transgender Rights Law Before Voters

In this Aug. 23, 2007, file photo, a sign marks the entrance to a gender-neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington. (Toby Talbot/AP)
In this Aug. 23, 2007, file photo, a sign marks the entrance to a gender-neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington. (Toby Talbot/AP)

Activists opposed to a new state law that expands civil rights protections for transgender individuals say they have the signatures needed to put a repeal measure before voters in 2018.

Keep MA Safe said in a press release Wednesday that nearly 33,000 of the more than 50,000 signatures the group collected — from "voters who want the opportunity to vote this law off the books" — had been certified by local clerks. That's more than the 32,375 needed to get the repeal measure on the November 2018 ballot.

The law, passed by the state's majority Democratic Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in July, protects transgender rights in hotels, parks, train stations and other public spaces. That includes allowing transgender men and women to use the bathroom or locker room associated with their gender identity rather than their anatomical sex.

Critics of the law, which takes effect on Saturday, say it would allow male predators to disguise themselves as women to enter female locker rooms and restrooms.

In a statement released after the law was approved, the Massachusetts Family Institute said the law would "violate the fundamental rights to privacy and safety for all citizens of the Commonwealth, particularly women and children."

In signing the bill back in July, Gov. Baker said "no one should be discriminated against in Massachusetts because of their gender identity."

"I believe this compromise legislation extends additional protections to the commonwealth's transgender community and includes provisions to address the public safety concerns that were expressed by some," the governor added.

The legislation called on Attorney General Maura Healey to issue guidelines for taking legal action against anyone who asserts gender identity for an improper purpose.

As WBUR's Martha Bebinger reported earlier this month, those guidelines "tell businesses to presume an individual is using the appropriate bathroom or locker room. But if a person is loitering, harassing, photographing or threatening others, to intervene and possibly call the police."

Healey and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination expect abuses of the law will be rare.

The signatures collected by Keep MA Safe must still be certified by Secretary of State William Galvin's office, which will make the final call on whether the measure can be placed on the November 2018 ballot.

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