Massachusetts Clarifies Transgender Law To Protect Religious Freedom

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Amber Randall Civil Rights Reporter
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Four churches dropped their lawsuit against Massachusetts after the state clarified its transgender law would only apply to them in limited cases.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit in October alleging the state’s anti-discrimination law for transgenders would infringe on churches’ religious freedoms, reports Mass Live.

Now, the group announced Monday it dropped the lawsuit against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination after receiving a letter from the AG’s office.

The attorney general’s office sent a letter to the ADF last month explaining that it removed “house of worship” as an example of a public place. Healey noted, though, if a church hosts a “public, secular function,” then it will be considered a public place.

“We accomplished what we set out to do, to ensure pastors and churches across the state of Massachusetts were free to teach their religious beliefs and operate their houses of worship in a way consistent with those beliefs,” Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel with the ADF, said.

The anti-discrimination law, enacted in July, let transgender people use the locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. It outlawed any discrimination against transgender people.

A group of churches filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in response to the law. The churches alleged the law would force them to let transgenders use whatever bathroom they wanted in a church. It would also stop pastors from making statements about sexuality that don’t line up with the government’s beliefs, the lawsuit claimed.

Church lawyers maintain they will still challenge the law if they feel state officials are forcing churches to violate their constitutional rights.

A spokeswoman for Healey’s office said the lawsuit was unnecessary to begin with, but they were happy the plaintiffs dismissed the lawsuit.

“This law provides important protections for transgender people who were without full protection and equality under the law for too long,” Emily Snyder, the spokeswoman, said.

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