BOSTON (AP) — Four churches have withdrawn a federal lawsuit that claimed a state law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in public restrooms violated their constitutional right to religious freedom.
The conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom sued in October on behalf of the churches, saying they would be forced to open changing rooms, shower facilities and restrooms based on perceived gender identity and not on biological sex. It said that because the new law also prohibits covered entities from making statements intended to discriminate, it would force churches and pastors to refrain from religious expression regarding sexuality that conflicts with the government's view.
On Monday, the group said it voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit after Democratic state Attorney General Maura Healey's office revised its written guidance on the law, "which now protects the freedom of churches to express views consistent with their faith and operate their facilities in a manner that doesn't violate their core religious beliefs."
Healey spokeswoman Emily Snyder said the lawsuit was unnecessary because state law has long provided that religious facilities are exempt from the public accommodations law for religious services and other religious functions. She said Healey's office clarified language on its website in response to the lawsuit and sent a letter to the Alliance Defending Freedom saying that religious facilities may qualify as places of public accommodation when they host public, non-religious functions.
"This law provides critical protections for transgender people who were without full protection and equality under the law for too long," Snyder said.
The churches that filed the lawsuit are Horizon Christian Fellowship, in Fitchburg; Abundant Life Church, in Swansea; House of Destiny Ministries, in Southbridge; and Faith Christian Fellowship, in Haverhill.