What Happened at Woburn Target?
Murky Bathroom Encounter Roils Question 3 Campaign

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/10/30/what-happened-at-woburn-target-murky-bathroom-encounter-roils-question-3-campaign/

An interaction between a 10-year-old girl and an adult in a bathroom at the Target in Woburn earlier this month has become a point of dispute in the campaign over Question 3, a referendum on a portion of the Massachusetts gender-identity law.

Publicly available details of the incident are sketchy. An advocate for the No side on Question 3 who says he has spoken with the father of the girl has described publicly what the father says happened. But police aren’t making public many details, and efforts by New Boston Post to reach the family involved have been unsuccessful.

The following account is based on interviews and public statements.

At about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, October 16, a 10-year-old girl went into the women’s bathroom at the Target in Woburn. An adult biological male who identifies as a woman went into the bathroom afterward.

According to Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, who says he has spoken with the girl’s father, the transgender adult banged on the door of the stall the girl was in.

The adult commented on the girl’s T-shirt and offered her candy. The adult also changed clothes in the bathroom. The girl and the adult were the only ones in the bathroom at the time.

The girl left the bathroom and later that evening told her parents what happened. Her parents contacted police, who met with the girl and her parents at the Target that night and identified the adult using surveillance video provided by the store.

Beckwith is advocating for a No vote on Question 3, which asks voters whether they want to keep (Yes) or end (No) a 2016 state statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations, which includes public bathrooms.

Police have been investigating the incident since the day it occurred.

“On October 16 we responded to a call of suspicious activity at the Woburn Target. We identified and spoke with all involved parties. An investigation was initiated,” said Woburn Police Chief Robert J. Ferullo Jr., in an interview with New Boston Post on Monday.

Ferullo said he cannot make details about the case public because the investigation is continuing and because it involves a minor.

But he addressed the investigation in broad terms.

“The information currently available to us indicates that there may have been no crime committed,” Ferullo said. “If we were to determine there was a crime committed, then our primary objective would be just prosecution of the individual or individuals who committed a crime.”

Beckwith, in an interview, said the incident illustrates a problem with the state’s gender-identity law.

“The police appear to be following the law. But this law is bad. What we’ve been saying for months now – years, really – is this law allows men to go in women’s spaces and prevents anyone from stopping them, including the police. This law handcuffs police until somebody is actually violated,” Beckwith said.

Matt Wilder, spokesman for the Yes on 3 campaign, said the No side is using the incident to push a false narrative about the gender-identity law.

“If anyone — transgender or not — enters a space and commits a crime they will be arrested and charged, just as the Woburn Police indicated. That’s just common sense and nothing about the transgender nondiscrimination law changes that. A crime is a crime,” Wilder said in an email message. “The information released by police in this case is limited, therefore making it easy for the ‘no on 3’ campaign to create a misleading connection to this law, which is unfortunate. The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs, and 50 of the state’s leading sexual assault prevention agencies are among the thousands who support upholding the law Governor Charlie Baker enacted more than two years ago. These leaders would not support a law that put anyone at risk.”

The state statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations took effect October 1, 2016.

The law allows people to use sex-segregated public bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity, even if their gender identity does not correspond to their biological sex. That means that biological males who identify as females can use bathrooms and locker rooms set aside for women, and vice versa.

Guidelines from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office from September 2016 give examples of “improper or unlawful conduct” in a public bathroom. They include “loitering in a facility for the purpose of observing other patrons”; “threats or violence towards another person”; and “photographing or videotaping other patrons without permission.”

Question 3 goes to Massachusetts voters on Tuesday, November 6.