MIT Yes on 3 urges students to vote to protect transgender rights

Massachusetts to hold referendum on law Nov. 6

Massachusetts will hold a referendum Nov. 6 on a law that protects transgender individuals’ rights to access sex-specific public facilities consistent with their gender. In response, a group of students formed MIT Yes on 3 to inform other students about the referendum and help them register to vote.

MIT Yes on 3 works with Freedom for All Massachusetts (FFAM), a group pushing for the protective law not to be repealed. FFAM coined the term “Yes on 3”: a “yes” vote on question 3 on the ballot will be a vote to keep the law in place.

The current law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in places of “public accommodation, resort, and amusement,” along with race, sex, religion, and other grounds. It requires such places with separate facilities for males and females (such as bathrooms and locker rooms) to allow anyone to use the facility consistent with their gender identity, which may differ from their sex assigned at birth.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) signed the bill into law July 7, 2016, making Massachusetts the eighteenth state to have a law in place protecting against discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

It is expected to be a close vote. MIT Yes on 3 has been working with a May 31 poll from WBUR Radio which found that 52 percent of respondents planned to vote yes and 38 percent planned to vote no.

MIT Yes on 3 is holding info sessions and study breaks in dorms in order to make students aware of the referendum, get them registered to vote, and get more volunteers.

“What [Yes on 3] really needs is for college students to bump [the close vote] over, because a lot of college students do agree with the message but might not be registered to vote or remember to vote,” Zoe Levitt ’21, team lead of MIT Yes on 3 and a Cambridge resident, told The Tech in an interview.

All the students MIT Yes on 3 has talked to so far have been supportive, Levitt said.

“Some people might not be as motivated to vote in Massachusetts because they think ‘it’s a pretty democratic state, there’s nothing that my vote will really do.’ We’re trying to make sure that they know it’s a really important question,” Levitt said.

Levitt also thinks that not many students are aware that protecting transgender rights will be on the ballot this November, due to lack of publicity and students not paying enough attention to elections. “Most people were gone for the summer, and they just got back, and you’re not going to hear about this question in other states unless there’s some big deal about it not passing or passing [there],” Levitt said.

“MIT is steadfast in our support for transgender students, and the outcome of Question 3 will not change our nondiscrimination policies, which prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, among other things. For those who care about Question 3 — and any other issue — it’s vital to register to vote and then to vote,” Abigail Francis, assistant dean of LGBTQ+ Services, wrote in an email statement to The Tech.

MIT is a member of the coalition of colleges supporting Yes on 3, according to FFAM’s website.

The Cambridge City Council endorsed Yes on 3 Sept. 24.

Update 9/29/18: A previous version of this article incorrectly cited a stat from a Boston Globe poll, which found that 73 percent of respondents planned to vote yes on question three. This article has been updated to incude that MIT Yes on 3 has been working with a May 31 poll from WBUR Radio which found that 52 percent of respondents planned to vote yes. The WBUR poll specifically mentioned bathrooms and locker rooms, while the Boston Globe poll did not.