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.
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.
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.
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.
This article was originally published on November 06, 2018.