Voting to Protect the Right to Just Be
Massachusetts is about to embark on a battle about public accommodation. Currently, our laws say that all people in our State can be in public spaces, and they can use public facilities that are appropriate to them.
Public accommodation includes allowing Black people into any restaurant, hotel, or store, and public building. This includes efforts to make restaurants, stores, doctor’s offices, and bathrooms wheelchair accessible. It includes bathrooms with changing tables to accommodate parents of diapered babies.
That’s what public accommodation means. It is the right of anyone to go into a store a buy a dress, get an appointment to see a doctor, get on a bus and to sit where you want on the bus. It is the right to be in public space.
The ballot initiative against public accommodation
Massachusetts General Law c. 272, § 92A says that if someone lives as a woman, whether she was known as female all her life or not, she may go into a store and buy a dress. She may see a doctor for her healthcare. She may take the bus home. She can take her children to the zoo. She may use a public bathroom where she feels comfortable. She does not need to “prove” she is a woman. She just is.
In November, there will be a ballot initiative attempting to take away her right to do those things. (A YES vote confirms the right to public accommodation.)
Here are the places that are specifically mentioned in the bill that is being opposed this November:
M.G.L. c. 272, § 92A, defines a place of public accommodation as “any place, whether licensed or unlicensed, which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public.”
Places of public accommodation can include (but are not limited to):
- Hotels, inns, and motels;
- Restaurants, bars, and other establishments serving food or drink;
- Theaters, concert halls, sports stadiums, and other places of entertainment;
- Auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls, and other places of public gathering;
- Sales and rental establishments, including stores, shopping centers, automobile rental agencies, and other retail establishments;
- Service establishments, including laundromats, dry-cleaners, banks, barber shops, travel agents, gas stations, funeral parlors, employment agencies, and providers of professional services such as lawyers, doctors, dentists, accountants, and insurance agents;
- Health care facilities, including dental and medical offices, pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes;
- Transportation services;
- Museums, libraries, galleries, and other places of public display or collection;
- Parks, zoos, amusement parks, and other places of recreation;
- Child care centers, senior citizens centers, homeless shelters, food banks, and other social service establishments;
- Fitness clubs, health spas, bowling alleys, swimming pools, beaches, golf courses, and other places of exercises or recreation.
Get it? This is NOT about bathrooms and locker rooms. This is about being in society.