National anti-LGBTQ groups are aligned with and have worked alongside a campaign in Massachusetts that would repeal the state’s trans-inclusive nondiscrimination protections, which protect transgender people from discrimination in housing and the workplace and give them equal access to public facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. The anti-trans Keep MA Safe campaign was started by Massachusetts Family Institute, a state anti-LGBTQ group with direct ties to major national groups Family Policy Alliance, Alliance Defending Freedom, and Family Research Council.
Massachusetts voters will decide whether to repeal the state’s trans-inclusive nondiscrimination protections through the Question 3 ballot referendum. On November 6, Massachusetts voters will decide Question 3, a ballot referendum that seeks to undermine the state’s trans-inclusive nondiscrimination protections. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law in 2016 that expanded the state’s existing nondiscrimination protections for transgender people to include public accommodations such as bathrooms and locker rooms. The existing law already protected transgender residents from discrimination in housing and the workplace.
The effort to repeal the law goes against popular opinion within the state. A recent poll by University of Massachusetts Lowell and The Boston Globe estimated that 74 percent of likely voters want to uphold the state’s current law, but also found that voters have widespread confusion around the wording of Question 3. Even though the referendum was created to dismantle trans rights protections, a “yes vote” actually supports the existing protections and a “no vote” repeals them. [WBUR News, 7/9/18; The Associated Press, 7/8/16; University of Massachusetts Lowell, 10/10/18; CBS Boston, 10/10/18]
Keep MA Safe is the campaign leading the anti-LGBTQ “No on 3” initiative
Keep MA Safe is the anti-LGBTQ campaign leading the “No on 3” initiative. Statewide anti-LGBTQ group Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) launched its anti-trans campaign Keep MA Safe to gather signatures for the Question 3 ballot referendum soon after Gov. Baker signed the 2016 expansion of trans-inclusive nondiscrimination protections. According to an interview with MFI President Andrew Beckwith, the group gathered over 50,000 signatures but missed the deadline to be placed on the 2016 ballot. With the referendum now on the 2018 ballot, an interview with Beckwith noted the delay “gave the Keep Massachusetts Safe campaign two years to educate voters” and spread myths about “how the law especially endangers women and children.” Keep MA Safe has also received funding and support from the Renew Massachusetts Coalition led by Republican activist Chanel Prunier, another high profile voice of the Keep MA Safe campaign. [ThinkProgress, 10/18/17; WORLD Radio, 10/9/18; MassLive, 9/10/18; The Boston Globe, 8/8/16]
Keep MA Safe is campaigning for “No on 3” by fearmongering with the thoroughly debunked “bathroom predator” myth. Keep MA Safe’s first campaign ad relied on the debunked myth that allowing transgender people to use restrooms that align with their gender identity poses a safety risk to women and children. Anti-LGBTQ groups have long peddled this myth even though it has been repeatedly debunked by law enforcement, schools, sexual assault and domestic violence prevention experts, and multiple studies. The Williams Institute released a September study which concluded that “there is no evidence that letting transgender people use public facilities that align with their gender identity increases safety risks,” according to NBC News. [ThinkProgress, 9/20/18; Media Matters, 5/5/16; NBC News, 9/19/18]
National anti-LGBTQ groups are aligned with and supporting Keep MA Safe
The Keep MA Safe campaign pushing for the repeal of Massachusetts’ trans-inclusive nondiscrimination protections has deep ties to major national anti-LGBTQ groups. These are some of the biggest national anti-LGBTQ groups tied to Keep MA Safe:
MFI President Andrew Beckwith is an ADF allied attorney. Extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) press releases and Beckwith’s MFI biography identify him as an ADF allied attorney, and Beckwith has worked alongside ADF as counsel on multiple court cases. In a 2016 case, ADF and Beckwith represented four Massachusetts churches in a lawsuit against the trans-inclusive nondiscrimination law at the center of Question 3. Beckwith also signed a letter sent by ADF to Bunker Hill Community College on behalf of Young Americans for Liberty asking the college to revise its speech policy and rules on distributing printed materials to avoid litigation. Additionally, Beckwith served as local counsel for March for Life and Dordt College, and filed a brief alongside ADF on behalf of those clients in lawsuits challenging the Department of Health and Human Services’ rules covering birth control. [Alliance Defending Freedom, 2/28/18, 5/30/17; Massachusetts Family Institute, accessed 10/30/18; WBUR News, 10/11/16]
MFI lists ADF as a national partner, and the two groups have worked together in Massachusetts since at least 2006. MFI lists ADF as one of its four official national partners, and the groups have worked on several court cases and initiatives together for more than a decade. Former MFI President Kris Mineau was a plaintiff in a lawsuit ADF filed against Massachusetts lawmakers for their refusal to vote on a citizen initiative that would have banned marriage equality in the state’s constitution. Mineau participated in an ADF press conference about the case in 2006. The two groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief together in 2013 in a Massachusetts case involving the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. This January, both organizations represented a conservative student group at University of Massachusetts Amherst who were suing the school over alleged free speech violations. But the partnership extends beyond legal cases; ADF and MFI also created a 2015 legal guide for churches in Massachusetts to help them legally discriminate against LGBTQ people. [Massachusetts Family Institute accessed 10/30/18, September 2015; Alliance Defending Freedom, 12/12/06, 8/16/09; Mic, 9/4/13; MassLive, 1/8/18]
ADF has a long, extreme history of pushing anti-LGBTQ bigotry. ADF is one of the largest and most powerful anti-LGBTQ groups in the nation. The legal powerhouse raked in more than $50 million in revenue in 2016 and has a “powerful global network” of over 3,200 “allied attorneys.” ADF has played a role in dozens of Supreme Court cases related to abortion, religion, tuition tax credits, and LGBTQ issues. It is leading the fight against transgender student equality by attempting to sway, often successfully, local school policies across the country that affect basic protections for trans students, including their access to restroom facilities that align with their gender identity. The group actively works against nationwide efforts to protect LGBTQ people from the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy. It is also working to prevent LGBTQ people from adopting children by advocating for measures that would allow child welfare agencies to discriminate against prospective LGBTQ parents, among other. An analysis by Media Matters found that at least 10 of 28 anti-trans so-called “bathroom bills” introduced or active in 2017 had language resembling ADF’s model anti-trans policy. [Media Matters, 7/26/18, 11/27/17]
FRC has a national coalition of Family Policy Councils, and MFI is its state-level partner for Massachusetts. Extreme national anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council (FRC) has a coalition of state-level Family Policy Councils, which “accomplish at the state level what Family Research Council does at the national level - shape public debate and formulate public policy.” FRC has state-level allies in 43 states, and MFI is listed as a state level partner for Massachusetts. FRC says these groups are “independent entities,” but “share common core beliefs in the sanctity of human life and in the institution of marriage.” [Family Research Council, accessed 10/30/18]
FRC has used its social media to support Keep MA Safe. FRC has been advocating on behalf of Keep MA Safe through social media. FRC tweeted its support of “No on 3” and linked to Keep MA Safe’s video perpetuating the debunked “bathroom predator” myth:
FRC made blog posts encouraging its readers to join the repeal effort in Massachusetts. FRC made blog posts in favor of repealing Massachusetts’ trans-inclusive nondiscrimination protections. A July blog post pushed myths about trans-inclusive protections resulting in “voyeurism, harassment, and abuse” and asked readers to “join Massachusetts in a battle that could send transgender activists packing.” It also quoted MFI’s Beckwith and encouraged FRC supporters to visit Keep MA Safe’s website. An October post also linked to Keep MA Safe’s website. [Family Research Council, 7/20/18, 10/4/18]
FRC has worked for years to push anti-LGBTQ extremism in the U.S. and around the world. FRC is an extreme and influential anti-LGBTQ group that maintains close ties to the Trump Administration. FRC President Tony Perkins was appointed as a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in May, and FRC alumni Shannon Royce has an influential position at the Department of Health and Human Services. FRC also played a significant role in Trump’s transgender military ban, with Slate reporting in March that Perkins helped craft the report announcing the discriminatory policy. FRC “believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large” and “is by definition unnatural,” and the group promotes dangerous and discredited conversion therapy to change the sexual orientation and gender identity of LGBTQ people. [Media Matters, 5/17/18, 1/23/18, 3/25/18, 9/28/17; Slate, 3/24/18]
Family Policy Alliance is a national policy-focused anti-LGBTQ group that donated $10,000 to Keep MA Safe. MFI, which launched Keep MA Safe, is the Massachusetts-based member of the national anti-LGBTQ Family Policy Alliance, an arm of Focus on the Family. Family Policy Alliance is also allied with ADF and FRC. In addition to being a direct partner of Keep MA Safe, Family Policy Alliance has directly donated at least $10,000 to the campaign. [Family Policy Alliance, accessed 10/30/18; Office of Campaign and Political Finance, 10/5/18; Politico, 3/29/18]
Family Policy Alliance is encouraging Massachusetts voters to vote “No on 3.” In addition to supporting the campaign financially, the anti-LGBTQ alliance wrote a post on its website and sent out an email to its supporters on October 12 urging them to vote no on the referendum. The post and email featured the same text, which pushed myths about privacy and safety and touted the group’s support for Keep MA Safe and MFI. From the post:
This is why Family Policy Alliance is a major supporter of the efforts of Keep MA Safe and Massachusetts Family Institute. These organizations have partnered to mobilize thousands in Massachusetts to force the new law onto the ballot. On Nov. 6, if a majority of Massachusetts voters reject Question 3, the new law will be removed from the books. [Family Policy Alliance, 10/12/18, 10/12/18]
Family Policy Alliance state allies in Alaska and Montana failed to pass similar referendums. Other Family Policy Alliance state members have worked to place anti-trans measures on local and state ballots over the last few years. In April, Anchorage voters rejected Proposition 1, an anti-trans referendum filed by Alliance member Alaska Family Action that “would have defined ‘sex’ based on ‘original birth certificate’” and forced transgender people to use public facilities such as “bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender at birth.” In June, Alliance member Montana Family Foundation failed to secure even half of the petition signatures required to get a similar referendum on the state’s 2018 ballot. [Family Policy Alliance, accessed 10/30/18; The Daily Beast, 4/6/18; The Associated Press, 4/12/18; The Advocate, 7/2/18]
Additional research by Rebecca Damante.