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Why Rainbow Commission supports Question 3

Mel Goldsipe, vice chair of the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission, read the following statement to supporting Question 3 to the Select Board on Monday, Oct. 22. The board followed with a resolution affirming its support. Goldsipe was frequently tearful during her public delivery of the statement, in part because of current news that the Trump administration is seeking to redefine what gender means.

Rainbow crosswalk in front of Town Hall, June 2018.

I’m proud to report that at last week’s meeting, the Rainbow Commission passed a resolution in support of the Yes on 3 effort to protect equal access to public spaces for all people in Massachusetts.

This is a really rough day to be talking to you about this. The New York Times reported just yesterday that federal departments are “considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a government-wide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.”

On top of that, Ballot Question 3 in Massachusetts on Nov. 6 is a state referendum on whether transgender people should be able to exist in public spaces – and therefore whether they can fully participate in civic life. This issue should be important to everyone who is committed to equality and civil rights, of course. But since many people don’t know (or aren’t aware that they know) anyone who is transgender, discussions of this issue are often debates about gender in theoretical terms and trans people in the abstract. We should all care about the principle of equal rights, of course. But for me, support for the Yes on 3 effort is personal too.

I’m blessed to have many trans friends, including my best friend from high school. I’ve also been lucky enough to work alongside trans people in carrying out the Rainbow Commission’s work. So, many people in my daily life – and others I haven’t yet met in this town but whom I try to represent well as a Commissioner – will be greatly affected by the outcome of Question 3. I see the toll that discrimination takes on trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming folx, and how exhausting and hurtful it is to them to face renewed uncertainty over the future of their rights in this state and in this country.

As we discuss this resolution on Question 3, I want to make sure that we remember that actual Arlingtonians I know personally will be affected by the outcome of this election. So I know how important it is for trans individuals and their families and friends to hear from the town leadership that this community sees their hopes and fears and that we value them as individuals who are important to the life of this town.

Back in 2016, Arlington Town Meeting made its first statement of support for the transgender community when we added gender identity and expression to the town’s nondiscrimination bylaw. Later that year, these protections were also added statewide with an addition to the public accommodations law, which has improved the quality of life for countless trans folx and those who love them. Since its passage, none of the dire, fear-mongering predictions from the opposition have happened.

This important law provides equal access to public spaces by protecting trans people from discrimination in places like restaurants, movie theaters, parks, hospitals, and public transportation. And it has been in place for two years without problem. The guarantee of equal access to public spaces has been a great success that has allowed transgender people to go about their daily life in peace and to openly contribute to civic life.

But now all of us in Massachusetts are being asked to vote on whether trans people should continue to have these rights. Two weeks from tomorrow, people around the state will vote on Ballot Question 3, and the trans community will learn whether Massachusetts supports full equality or not.

Voting Yes on 3 upholds the current law, which is vital for providing equal access and safety for all in Massachusetts. Voting no would repeal the law and leave trans people without essential nondiscrimination protections. I encourage anyone with questions about this law to reach out to the Rainbow Commission via email to rainbow at town.arlington.ma.us.

In closing, I want to thank the Select Board and Town Manager for your ongoing support of efforts to promote equality through the work of the Human Rights Commission, Disability Commission, and Rainbow Commission.

Every time I attend a Select Board meeting, I walk away feeling more hopeful. I’ve met such wonderful people through my commission work, and I always feel like I get back way more than I give. I encourage others in our community who are feeling weighed down by problems within our country to get more involved at the local level. Even if you don’t have time to volunteer, pick a town commission and just attend one of their meetings to see the good work that your neighbors are doing.

And please encourage everyone you know to vote on Nov. 6.


This viewpoint was published Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018.

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