Possible $50,000 Penalty For Gender-Identity Law Violations, Question 3 Opponent Says

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/10/04/50000-penalty-for-gender-identity-law-violations-question-3-opponent-says/

People who repeatedly deny services in public accommodations to transgender people could face up to a $50,000 civil penalty under the state’s gender identity law, an opponent of the law told a radio talk show host.

Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, appeared on the Howie Carr Show on WRKO AM-680 in Boston on Wednesday night to talk about a Milton beauty parlor called Belle Visage, which refused to perform a bikini wax on a biological male who identifies as a woman.

New Boston Post broke the story last week.

The Massachusetts Family Institute, a nonprofit organization that advocates for Judaeo-Christian values on Beacon Hill, is campaigning for a No vote on Question 3, which asks voters if they want to uphold (by voting Yes) or end (by voting No) a July 2016 state statute that prohibits discriminating on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations, which include public bathrooms, locker rooms, retail stores, restaurants, and beauty parlors, among other places.

Supporters of the law say it provides needed dignity and protection to vulnerable transgender people who often suffer discrimination and abuse. Opponents say it allows biological males to impinge on the privacy and safety of women and girls when they are in vulnerable positions.

The beauty parlor’s co-owner last December did not want to remove pubic hair from the biological male as part of what the would-be customer called a “full Brazilian.” The transgender person subsequently filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office on the basis of the state’s gender identity law. The complaint was subsequently withdrawn, and as of last week had not been refiled.

The seven-page handwritten complaint gets into graphic details of the services the would-be customer wanted.

“I’m really reluctant to read very much of the complaint. I’m even reluctant to tweet it out. Or to put a link. You know, it’s just so, so graphic and so horrible,” Carr said.

But he summarized it while reading a few sentences.

“He says he’s a woman, so the female workers at the spa should provide him with a Brazilian just like they would for a woman,” Carr said.

“That’s right,” Beckwith said. “That is how this law works, Howie, is that the definition of gender identity under Massachusetts law is extremely broad, and vague. And it doesn’t require surgery, as in this case, he has no surgery. It doesn’t require hormones, a doctor’s diagnosis. It doesn’t even require consistency. So he could walk into the place the next day and say, ‘Yep, I actually am a man today.’ All it requires is a sincerely held gender identity. That’s it. So it’s ripe for abuse, and that’s one of our real concerns with this law.”

Carr read portions from the complaint stating that the complainant’s body has been changing and taking on feminine features, such as softer skin, finer hairs, and other body changes.

“Yeah, so I think the man is on estrogen,” Beckwith said. “But he still, again, has intact male genitalia, which the women at the spa do not want to have to interact with. But here you have a man – a biological, anatomical, chromosomal man – using this law to try and force women to touch his genitalia. And he actually has, I think you’ve seen probably later on in the complaint, his demands are that he gets to select the woman of his choice to do this procedure to him, if the owner herself won’t do it.”

A spokesman for the Yes on 3 Campaign, contacted by New Boston Post, said Beckwith’s description of how the state’s gender identity law would apply to the beauty parlor case is wrong.

“The law that is on the ballot in November is very simple in all that it does is protect transgender people from discrimination and harassment in public places. It is illegal to force anyone to have contact with another person if they don’t want to. This law did not change that. Saying so is an extreme and intentional mischaracterization. Voting ‘Yes on 3’ simply upholds current law that allows transgender people to go about living their daily lives like the rest of us,” said Matt Wilder, spokesman for Yes on 3, in an email message Thursday.

During the radio show Wednesday, Carr asked what business owners can expect if they violate the gender identity law.

“So what’s going to happen? What are the possible penalties against the Belle Visage if they’re found guilty of discriminating against this transgender?” Carr asked.

Beckwith responded:  “I mean, if there were repeated violations like this, let’s say he was turned away three times, or three different men were turned away, it could be up to $50,000 or a year in jail. So these are pretty extreme penalties.”

“A year in jail?” Carr asked.

“Yes sir,” Beckwith said. “Because this is, this is built on existing civil rights laws, so they added gender identity along with, you know, race, sex, religion, things like that. So they’re very stringent penalties. And the same would be true if I as a father, if I’m waiting at the local Y for my 8-year-old daughter to come out of the locker room ‘cause she’s changing over after swim lessons and I see a guy start to go into the women’s locker room, and I say, ‘Excuse me, sir, I need you to wait for a minute ‘til my daughter comes out,’ I would be in violation in just the same way, and could face those kind of penalties. That’s what most people don’t know.”

No cases of similar penalties have occurred since the law was enacted in July 2016. But Beckwith maintains that state law provides maximum penalties for repeated violations that include up to $50,000 in civil penalty and up to a year in jail.

Carr asked Beckwith if, before the gender-identity-in-public-accommodations law was enacted in July 2016, the biological male who identifies as a woman could have filed a complaint against the spa.

Beckwith noted that state law has prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity in certain areas (including education and housing) since 2012, but that public accommodations was added only two years ago. So under the 2012 law, the would-be customer wouldn’t have had a case against the spa, he said, even though he may have a case under the 2016 law. That’s because the 2012 law still allowed certain places to be segregated by biological sex.

“But, under Massachusetts law, it is not unlawful sex discrimination to treat men and women differently in certain circumstances, like bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and I would assume, Brazilian waxes. So he would not be able to do this,” Beckwith said. “But the vast majority of examples that you hear from the other side, the Yes on 3 campaign, have already been covered under Massachusetts law for years. And what’s interesting about this case is that, the attorney who helped this man file the claim, is the co-chair of the Yes on 3 campaign, Mason Dunn. So they know exactly what this law does, and they want it to do that. They want to use this law to force women to touch men’s genitals. Because in their mind, that man is – not identifies as, is – a woman, because of his identity.”

Wilder, a spokesman for Yes on 3, pointed out Thursday that the would-be customer filed the complaint with the Attorney General’s office after the spa cancelled an appointment for work on hands and feet, which the transgender person scheduled partly so that the workers at the spa could get to feel comfortable around the person. The cancelled appointment did not include a bikini wax.

“It is worth noting, that in this particular case, the woman was not turned away from the spa for the services Mr. Beckwith describes. Rather, she was denied a manicure/pedicure and humiliated in the process. That’s not how we treat our neighbors in Massachusetts,” Wilder said in the email message.

The would-be customer requested a bikini wax during an initial telephone call but after a conversation with a salon employee made an appointment for less inclusive services, according to the complaint. When the would-be customer called the day before the appointment, a salon worker said the owner had cancelled the appointment and offered a referral to a male salon owner in Brookline who performs waxes for men. The complainant subsequently demanded from Belle Visage three free “full Brazilians” as among the damages sought, according to the complaint.

Question 3, if a No vote prevails, would repeal the statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations, but leave intact the 2012 law outlawing discrimination on the basis of gender identity in other areas such as education and housing.

If Yes wins, the current law will stay as it is now.

The general election is Tuesday, November 6.

[Editor’s Note:  This story was updated to include comments from a Yes on 3 campaign spokesman.]