Local organizations and public servants advocate for transgender rights

JP Forum and Freedom for All Massachusetts recently held an event at First Church JP to urge residents to vote yes on a ballot question in this November’s election that would protect legislation that prevents discrimination against transgender people.

The ballot question this November will be the first time a state votes to defend transgender rights. In 2016, legislation was passed to include protections for transgender people in public places, including restaurants, shops, and hospitals. Governor Baker signed the legislation into law in July 2016. Later in 2016, opponents of the law gathered signatures to place the law on the ballot for repeal in 2018.

Freedom for All Massachusetts, who advocated for the legislation in 2016, is now campaigning to fight the repeal effort.

At the event on June 26, local state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, local state Reps. Jeffrey Sanchez and Liz Malia, JP City Councilor O’Malley, and representatives from Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and Keshet spoke in favor of voting yes on the ballot question. (Keshet is a national organization that works for full LGBTQ equality and inclusion in Jewish life.) A vote “yes” would ensure that the anti-discrimination protections are upheld.

“Today is an affirmation of our support for the trans community,” Rep. Sanchez said. “Affirmation is only the first step though. We have to band together to ensure that these fundamental rights remain in place. Transgender people should have the same protections as everyone else – to their lives, their safety, their privacy, and their dignity. Nobody should ever have to live in fear of discrimination simply because of who they are.”

Liz Malia spoke about the advocacy and community organizing that happened in Jamaica Plain in the 1980s to protect the gay and lesbian community.

“The places that all of us in our community presumed we were welcome in, we weren’t,” Rep. Malia said. “And it took the courage and the strength of our allies, members of the LGBTQ community, and it was really worth it in the long run to save the country and legalize marriage…To be honest I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get transgender legislation. We have to get louder and stronger and wake up our communities and our friends to make sure that they vote yes on transgender rights this fall.”

Matt O’Malley spoke of his past experience as political director of Mass Equality, which advocated for this legislation years ago, and his disappointment that the referendum has made it to the ballot.

“It is wrong to vote on rights. Unfortunately, that’s precisely what will happen in November, and that’s scary, and dangerous. I’m not going to sugar coat it, the polls are close, and we have a lot of work to do,” O’Malley said. “Vote yes for respect, dignity, and to make sure we can truly build a commonwealth that treats everyone with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

Kaden Mohammad, representing Keshet, spoke on personal implications of the law.

“I’m just another person trying to live my life like anyone else. I’m also a transgender person,” Mohammad said. “This legislation is about making sure we [the transgender community] are able to exist freely in public spaces. It’s about making sure transgender people like me can go about their daily lives without having to hide who they are.”

Public accommodations are the places where rights are granted to all people not to be discriminated against in, and they include retail stores and malls, restaurants, hotels, medical offices, public parks, theaters, and public transportation.

Krina Patel, coalition director of Freedom for All Massachusetts, spoke on the implications that would happen if Massachusetts were to vote to repeal these transgender rights.

“A lot of eyes are on Massachusetts,” Patel said. “Our opponents chose Massachusetts for a reason. They know that if they can win here, they can win anywhere in the country.”

Freedom for All Massachusetts is organizing canvassing, phonebanks, and events. For more information, visit https://www.freedommassachusetts.org/.

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