Opponents of Massachusetts's new bathroom law are racing to complete a signature drive by Oct. 6 to place a repeal measure on the ballot in 2018.
The law forbids discrimination on the basis of gender identity in places of public accommodation and provides no religious exemption for churches that hold events open to the public. It goes into effect Oct. 1, two years before the state would have the chance to vote on issue.
The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination issued a "Gender Identity Guidance" Sept. 1 and said that under the new law "even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public."
Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, told CBN News that the law "creates all kinds of uncertainty for churches and a chilling effect."
He believes it will discourage churches from running everything from soup kitchens to other events and ministries that could be construed as "secular."
Beckwith said at least one youth pastor has raised concerns about how to handle sleeping arrangements during youth group retreats and camps.
Beckwith noted the law does not require individuals to provide any proof of their gender identity, leaving the door literally open for predators to pose as transgender people.
"I'm already hearing anecdotally about women who go into bathrooms and find men there," he said.
The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy organization, said "overwhelming support" exists throughout the state for the new law, noting that it's been endorsed by every New England professional sports team and public officials like Rep. Joe Kennedy III, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.