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Yes on 3: A Political Purpose at Pride

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Yes on 3: A Political Purpose at Pride

Pictured is the Trans King of Rhode Island, Payton James Osborn

Pictured is the Trans King of Rhode Island, Payton James Osborn

Marena Koenka '21

Pictured is the Trans King of Rhode Island, Payton James Osborn

Marena Koenka '21

Marena Koenka '21

Pictured is the Trans King of Rhode Island, Payton James Osborn

Oscar Kim Bauman, Contributing Writer

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On Saturday, September 8th, attendees gathered thousands of marchers at Worcester Common to celebrate Worcester’s annual Pride Parade and Festival. While all the expected aspects of revelry were on display as the common filled with dancers, singers, and rainbow flags, Pride also had pointedly political aspects.  

As speeches from politicians took on a tone of defiance to the current administration, canvassers spread throughout the crowd to spread word about Question 3, a ballot initiative regarding non-discrimination protections for Massachusetts’ transgender community.

In 2016, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker added protections for gender identity to state nondiscrimination laws. Under this law, transgender people gained legal protection from discrimination in public places, including restaurants, stores, and most controversially, bathrooms and locker rooms. Anti-transgender groups seized upon the narrative that this law would make such places unsafe, particularly for women and children.  

Fears of predators using the non-discrimination protections as a cover were able to get a referendum on the protections onto the ballot this November in the form of Question 3. Despite these fears, official sources show no increase in public safety incidents in the two years since the implementation of the protections. Somewhat confusingly, a “yes” vote on the Question is in fact one to keep the existing protections, something that the Yes on 3 Campaign, an initiative of the group Freedom for All Massachusetts hopes to convey to voters.  

Outfitted with green shirts and clipboards, canvassers with the Yes on 3 campaign were in full force at Worcester Pride, spreading their message to a receptive audience. The volunteers were of all ages, some still too young to vote, and others old enough to reminisce about the birth of the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of the volunteers were Clark students.  

One of the volunteers, Madison Graham, a first year student, said “The audience at Pride was very receptive, we had lots of people who wanted to stay involved.” Graham got involved with Yes on 3 after learning about the campaign at an OPEN meeting. She noted the similarity to a 2015 bill in her hometown of Houston, Texas, which also included protections for gender identity and failed on the ballot. “I wasn’t 18, so I couldn’t vote, and I couldn’t really get out and be a part of that campaign, so I feel like I need to be a part of this one.”  

For some at Clark, Yes on 3 is an issue of not just political but personal importance. “I came to Clark because I’m trans,” said first year Henley Ballou, “and I wanted a school and a city that would be accepting of that identity, where I could authentically be myself. I got involved with the Yes on 3 campaign because I wanted to make sure it can continue to be that way, considering that I’m going to be in the state of Massachusetts for the majority of the next four to five years.”

In Graham’s view the importance of the Yes on 3 campaign boils down to the fact that “trans and non-binary people across the state of Massachusetts need to know that people are there for them, and that they have our support, and deserve to be treated as equal citizens.”  

Support for the Yes on 3 campaign was on full display at Pride. Worcester Mayor Joe Petty sported a green Yes on 3 sticker as he opened the remarks and former Massachusetts State Senate President Harriette L. Chandler told the crowd to vote “yes” to cheers from the crowd. Congressman James McGovern, also wearing a green sticker, stressed the importance of protecting the progress that has been made for LGBTQ+ rights against those in Washington, D.C. who seek to “turn back the clock.”

Heavy political issues may seem to clash with Pride’s celebratory tone, but in reality the event has always been political. Ballou notes that “It’s kind of impossible to separate politics from pride,” noting the historic importance of organizing for the LGBTQ+ community, and concluding that the presence of politics at Pride is “vital.”

While polling still indicates almost evenly divided public opinion on Question 3, the Yes on 3 Campaign is continuing to try to shift voters to their side. Through November, organizers will continue to host events at Clark, with the hope that next Pride, they’ll have something to celebrate.  

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Yes on 3: A Political Purpose at Pride