Four churches in Massachusetts dropped a lawsuit that was filed in reaction to the state’s transgender protections bill after being informed they were exempt from the law.
The churches, backed by the anti-transgender group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADA), filed suit in October after the new bill took effect. Their original claim was that the new law infringed upon their rights to operate their facilities “in a manner that doesn’t violate their core religious beliefs.” The bill protects transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations including parks, stores, concert halls, and restaurants. It also makes it illegal to prevent a transgender person from using a public restroom that matches their gender identity.
In November, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued a letter to the ADF, clarifying that “houses of worship” were now exempt from the law according to new guidelines. She also clarified that a religious facility would qualify as a place of public accommodation if they host a public, secular function. In the case of the latter, they would be required to uphold the law.
“We are glad to see ADF acknowledge today that the Commonwealth’s long standing nondiscrimination laws, including the transgender protections update, does nothing to infringe on the freedom of congregations, clergy, and people of faith to practice their beliefs,” said Kasey Suffredini of Freedom Massachusetts. The group was a driving force behind the passage of the bill. They had referred to the suit as “baseless” while also referring to the ADF as “a notorious anti-LGBT advocacy group, working nationwide to undermine the rights of gay and transgender Americans.”
The transgender rights law is still yet to undergo another challenge. In 2018 Massachusetts voters will decide whether to repeal the law via a ballot measure after another group, Keep MA Safe was successful in collecting over 50,000 signatures to have it added.