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BOSTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Massachusetts churches can be forced to accept transgender bathroom "rights."
In a series of "Gender Identity" guidelines published September 1 by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), the state declares places of "public accommodation," such as movie theaters, health clubs and public swimming pools, "shall grant admission" to places segregated by sex to those who believe themselves to be the opposite gender. The guidance continues, noting that "[e]ven a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation" if it holds events open to the general public, and is therefore subject to comply with the gender identity guidelines.
The guidance, scheduled to be implemented October 1, threatens violators of the new ordinance with "up to one year in jail."
Additionally, the mandate orders employers to refer to transgender individuals by their assumed pronouns and names and forbids transgender discrimination in the form of "derogatory comments, jokes, drawings or photographs, touching or gestures."
The guidance has quickly drawn the ire of attorneys specializing in cases of religious freedom, with Matt Sharp, a lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom, maintaining the law is an unabashed infringement of the First Amendment. It is wrong, Sharp asserts, to describe churches as "public accommodations" simply because they host a "spaghetti supper," referencing the example in the text of the guidance.
A spokesman for the MCAD, however, argues that the order "addresses religious freedom and First Amendment rights," highlighting a line within the text stating that "[a]ll charges, including those involving religious institutions or religious exemptions, are reviewed on a case-by-case basis."
The guidance is based on the language found in Massachusetts' Gender Identity Accommodations Bill, or H4343, signed into law in July by Gov. Charlie Baker. H43434 amended existing legislation by adding "gender identity" and its state definition into the text.
The move from Republican governor Baker was heavily criticized by Massachusetts pro-family groups. The Massachusetts Family Institute issued a statement following the passage of H4343, where it argued,
Governor Charlie Baker has opened the door for predators to enter public bathrooms, locker rooms and showers and to abuse this vague legislation. Even in the absence of outright abuse, this bill violates fundamental rights of privacy by enforcing a new "right" for men to shower with women against their will. ... What is equally disturbing is that, under this new law, parents will face criminal prosecution for trying to protect their children, and business owners could be fined or even jailed just for putting up a sign deemed offensive to transgender activists.
Massachusetts is officially the 19th state to throw out "biological sex" in favor of "gender identity" in legislation related to public restrooms and locker rooms.
The MCAD guidance comes as a nationwide debate takes place over transgender "rights," with the issue having emerged in funeral homes, foster homes, homeless shelters and prisons. Most recently, a transgender Missouri inmate has filed a federal lawsuit against the Potosi Correctional Center, an all-male facility, for allegedly being denied hormone therapy, permanent hair removal and "gender-affirming canteen items."
Multiple states, healthcare providers, state governors and pro-family organizations are also currently engaged in court battles against the Obama administration over its mandate issued in May demanding public schools accommodate transgender children or potentially face a loss of federal funding.
The Catholic Church has clearly maintained Her position against the push for gender identity rights, with Pope Benedict XVI declaring in 2012, "The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious." Likewise, Pope Francis has denounced transgender ideology, decrying the "ideological colonization" being forced on children.