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Massachusetts passes first statewide referendum protecting transgender rights

Massachusetts passes first statewide referendum protecting transgender rights

Massachusetts became the first state to uphold protections for transgender and non-binary people at the ballot box by voting to preserve the state's anti-discrimination law.

Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the Question 3 ballot initiative to keep the current wording of the state’s anti-discrimination statute, according to news website MassLive. Official numbers have not yet been released.

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The law prohibits discrimination in public accommodations -- restaurants, hotels, hospitals, stores and public transportation -- and allows allowing people to use spaces that align with their gender identity.

Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed the measure into law in 2016, but opponents gathered enough signatures to put the law on the 2018 ballot for repeal.

The vote comes amid reports that the Trump administration weighing a change that would require individuals to identify as male or female based on their genitalia at birth, a move that would narrow the definition of gender and roll back protections that include an estimated 1.4 million Americans who identify as members of the trans community.

Transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox of Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" celebrated the Massachusetts measure on Twitter.

LGBTQ advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) also celebrated the vote the landmark vote.

“Transgender residents of Massachusetts can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their hard-fought protections will remain in place,” HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride said in a statement. “This was a crucial test for our community and movement. The Yes on 3 Campaign demonstrated that when we tell the stories of transgender people and our families, voters will reject the scare tactics and side with dignity and equality.”