August 28, 2018 at 2:02 pm PST | by Masen Davis
Help needed for Massachusetts trans initiative

Masen Davis is the CEO of Freedom for All Americans, the campaign to secure LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections nationwide. (Photo courtesy Freedom For All Americans)

The LGBTQ movement is facing a historic moment this November: our first statewide public vote on a transgender nondiscrimination law and it’s an “all-hands-on-deck” moment. A small but vocal group of anti-transgender activists has mounted an attack on the Massachusetts law protecting transgender people from discrimination in public places—signed by the Commonwealth’s Republican governor just two years ago.

I’m proud that Freedom for All Americans was a lead partner in successfully passing these protections for transgender people in Massachusetts – and we’re just as committed to defending it now through the Yes On 3 campaign to uphold the law. This fight isn’t just one of the biggest challenges facing our movement today – it’s also one of our biggest opportunities. It’s an opportunity to show how deep support is for transgender equality – and for nondiscrimination protections for all LGBTQ Americans. In our work to protect all people from discrimination, this is a crucially important fight to win.

This is a high stakes campaign with national implications. Our movement has fought back attempted rollbacks in Anchorage and Montana this year – and won. If we hold the line in Massachusetts, we’ll send a strong message that America is evolving in support of transgender equality. As Andrew Beckwith, the head of the Massachusetts Family Institute which forced this initiative onto the ballot, told Politico: “If this movement [for transgender equal rights] can be stopped in Massachusetts, it can be stopped anywhere in the country.” MFI is leading repeal efforts and has a history of aggressively opposing protections and rights for LGBTQ people, including marriage equality and anti-bullying policies, and even supports the dangerous practice of conversion therapy.

LGBTQ supporters can win this campaign – but it’s also winnable for the opposition. As Jim Rooney, CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and early endorser of the law, also told Politico, “The [fact that the] repeal question made it to the ballot — clearly it needs to be taken seriously … With the national reputation of the state, while there is a demonstrated history of a progressive bent on social issues, it’s not to say it’s a homogeneous state where everyone thinks the same.’”

While LGBTQ Californians rightfully feel more protected legally than many of our fellow Americans, we cannot insulate ourselves from our opponents’ efforts across the country – especially when even the future of the courts hang in the balance.

Ten years ago, here in California, we faced a similar predicament. We didn’t think enough of our neighbors, friends, and coworkers could possibly vote against our freedom to marry the person we love, but they did. Prop 8 was a heartbreaking setback, and now our LGBTQ movement is faced with a similarly terrifying vote — but rather than marriage, it’s transgender rights; and rather than here at home, it’s across the country in Massachusetts. We need to unite as a movement and fight this together.

Even at a time in which the Trump administration is doubling down on attacks on transgender people, we have plenty of reasons to be hopeful. Just this year, Anchorage became the first municipality in the country to uphold transgender protections on a stand-alone ballot measure, proving that a growing majority of Americans nationwide are rejecting discrimination against transgender people. Anti-transgender activists failed to gather enough signatures to place a similar repeal of protections on the ballot in Washington State and Montana. The Republican-controlled New Hampshire legislature approved comprehensive legislation protecting transgender people from discrimination just this past year, proving how bipartisan our support truly is. Voters in neighboring Vermont will even have the opportunity to vote for the first transgender gubernatorial nominee of a major state party, Democratic candidate Christine Hallquist.

The tides are turning, but we know all too well that equality and justice for all are not inevitable guarantees. As my good friend and fellow activist Gina Duncan often says, “When they go low, we go local.” Even for those of us who live on the Left Coast, this fight in Massachusetts is our fight. And there are plenty of ways you can help make sure we win.

Our opponents are a small but vocal minority, and it takes a lot of resources to overcome their myths and lies. The single best way you can encourage Massachusetts voters to uphold the law and vote Yes On 3 is to donate $100, $50, $10, or any amount you can so that our team can talk to every single undecided voter. The campaign to vote Yes On 3 is organizing virtual phone banks you can participate in right where you live and they are even hosting folks on “volunteer vacations” who can travel to Massachusetts and volunteer directly with the campaign to talk to voters about why transgender equality matters to them. That means anyone can participate, no matter where you live.

Just like California, Massachusetts has long led the country on matters of equality. This ballot campaign again makes Massachusetts a “first.” Winning in Massachusetts will allow us to create momentum that moves the LGBTQ movement forward on a path to a nationwide victory in which we successfully pass a comprehensive nondiscrimination bill in Congress. We can win this fight, but we need all hands on deck. Visit FreedomMassachusetts.org and help us hold the line in Massachusetts and beyond.

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