For me, it’s very simple. Everyone deserves dignity and respect. Everyone deserves to feel safe and included. Everyone deserves to feel welcome. I’m not sure if these beliefs come from being the daughter of a Rabbi, from having an older sister with an intellectual disability or from one of many other formative childhood experiences. No matter the origin, I’m grateful to have been raised with an inherent belief in equality and a dedication to social justice.
In 2012, Massachusetts implemented anti-discrimination protections in employment, housing, education and credit for transgender people but those protections were not guaranteed in places of public accommodation, like restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums, buses and trains, or hospitals. That meant that a transgender person could not be denied employment at a restaurant because of their gender identity, but could be refused service at that same restaurant.
Like many others, I knew that the law didn’t extend far enough to create a safe and welcoming commonwealth. In a 2014 survey, 65% of transgender people living in Massachusetts reported having experienced discrimination in a public place. Unfortunately, threats and violence against transgender people continue to be far too common.
In the spring of 2016, a bill was proposed that would address this injustice. The Attorney General’s office decided to engage the business community to support the bill because promoting equality is not just the right thing to do – it is also good for business. Discriminatory laws make it harder for companies and regions to recruit talented employees, attract customers and build a thriving economy.
Over the course of a month, I volunteered to help get the bill passed by reaching out to companies, securing new signatories to the bill and lobbying members of the MA legislature. I was in the senate chamber when the senate voted on the bill and celebrated with members of the transgender community and activists across MA when it received the majority of votes.
On July 8, 2016, H1577/S735, An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination, was signed into law. While this felt like a historic win, it was short-lived. Due to the efforts of a very small group within the community, there will be a question on the ballot that aims to repeal the law on election day in November of 2018. The only thing worse than waiting until 2016 to give everyone equal protection under the law, would be to take that protection away just two years later. If you live in Massachusetts, please join me in voting “Yes” on question 3 to keep our current law in place. If you want to learn more or get involved, please visit: https://www.freedommassachusetts.org/
Transgender people should have the same basic protections as everyone else – to live their lives with safety, privacy and dignity. Protecting people from discrimination—including people who are transgender—is about treating others as we want to be treated. Vote “Yes” on 3 because no one should fear for their safety because of the color of their skin, who they love or how they identify.
Samantha Joseph is an account manager at Cone Communications in Boston.