Easthampton City Council passes resolution in favor of upholding anti-discrimination law

  • Easthampton Municipal Building File photo

Staff Writer 
Published: 10/9/2018 11:32:13 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The City Council announced its support of Question 3 on the Nov. 6 election ballot, which would retain the state’s anti-discrimination public accommodations law that was established in 2016.

At its Oct. 3 meeting, councilors affirmed their support by unanimously passing a resolution in favor of keeping the anti-discrimination law which allows transgender and non-binary people to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identities.

The anti-discrimination law was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2016, and the City Council stated its unequivocal support for voting “yes” in order to retain the law.

“I never thought we would even dream of having a rollback of really common sense legislation,” City Councilor Owen Zaret said at the meeting. “We have to draw a line and say this is not going to happen in Massachusetts.”

Debby Dugan, chairwoman of Keep MA Safe, the group that collected the signatures necessary for the ballot referendum, told the Boston Globe that the law is “ripe for abuse by criminals and convicted sex offenders.”

“There is no real evidence of there being increased violence in bathrooms by people who identify in terms of their gender identification,” Zaret said. “We have to make a statement for what is right.”

When the law passed in 2016, it was an expansion of a 2011 state law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in the workplace and housing. The council’s resolution states that the public accommodations protections “were another step toward equality for all under the law, banning discrimination against transgender people in schools, parks, restaurants, libraries, hotels and other accommodations … ”

It continues, “The right to use the locker room, restroom and other facilities that affirm one’s gender identity is an essential right unnoticed by most, but which is a part of full citizenship for member of our community who are transgender and non-binary.” 

Councilor James Kwiecinski said, “It’s unfortunate that we’ve come to a point of having to have a resolution to do something that is just the right thing in the first place, so let’s do it.” 

Councilor Daniel Rist said residents of the state have to “keep their guard up” in terms of protecting against discrimination and expressed dismay for the ballot question coming up in the first place. 

Councilor Thomas W. Peake said the council’s resolution is also helpful for voters because the wording of the ballot question can be confusing. 

“In affirming that we support a vote for yes, we are helping to communicate that yes is the way you should be voting if you want to preserve transgender rights in Massachusetts,” Peake said. 

Kate Collins, an Easthampton resident, voiced her support for the council’s resolution during the meeting, and said that there are studies that show that there has not been an increase in crime due to transgender bathroom laws. 

“It’s less a political issue and more of a human rights issue,” Collins said. “(The law) does not decriminalize any act of violence in any situation that is restroom related. It simply serves to uphold the basic decency and human rights of people to have access to public facilities.” 

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com

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