Today, the voters of Massachusetts opted to retain a 2016 law protecting people from discrimination in public places, regardless of their gender. The vote represents a disaster for a coalition of Christian conservative activists that had hoped to make liberal-leaning Massachusetts the first state to repeal a law extending civil rights provisions to trans and non-binary people.
In 2016, Massachusetts legislators negotiated a law, SB 2407, that prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations such as hotels, restaurants, and public restrooms. Almost immediately after the law passed, the Massachusetts Family Institute, a local group opposing the devil’s work in all its progressive forms (see: gambling, the internet, abortion, same-sex marriage) began lobbying to place a repeal on the ballot. Outspent and under-staffed compared to its competition, as Jezebel reported in October, the “Keep Massachusetts Safe” campaign used identical tactics to those deployed in other states to oppose so-called “bathroom bills.” Last month, they produced a video warning voters about sexual predators who might gain access to women’s bathrooms. Though this claim is embarrassing and has been debunked endlessly, the organizers hoped to set a precedent with their repeal initiative, noting that “if this [trans rights] movement can be stopped in Massachusetts, it can be stopped anywhere in the country.”
Early polls showed the vote, known as Question 3, as the tightest on the ballot: Though October and early November, the “Freedom for All Massachusetts” campaign’s noted business endorsements (including, incredibly, the Boston Red Sox) and door-knocking efforts helped swing projections in their favor. A week before the vote, a Boston-area ad agency produced a mildly charming video in support of retaining the anti-discrimination measure. The official “Freedom for All” campaign raised over $4.4 million dollars to support the retention of the law.
“I think Massachusetts is a place where the majority of our residents are fair-minded and good people,” Matthew Wilder, the campaign’s spokesperson, told Jezebel in October. And though the state generally skews towards socially conservative, if technically liberal, politics, it appears it is progressive enough to find the repeal of a basic civil protection appropriately grotesque.