“Bathroom Bills” Stir Renewed Controversy

Two separate events the previous week have spurred renewed interest in the discussion on local, state and federal transgender discrimination, especially on the issue of restroom use.

NORTH CAROLINA

This issue of restroom accessibility was sparked in March of 2016 when North Carolina passed HB2, popularly (or perhaps infamously) known as the “bathroom bill.” This bill barred members of the transgender community from using the restroom that corresponded with their identified gender. The passage of this bill sparked nationwide outcry from the LGBT+ community and its allies who said it was discrimination masquerading as “public safety.” The backlash led to NCAA and professional sporting events being pulled from the state, businesses pulling plans to expand into North Carolina, and even to other states barring non-essential government travel to the state.

North Carolina passed a new bill on March 28th of this year that was supported by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper (who won the gubernatorial race in large part thanks to public outcry of HB2 – 60% of polled were against the ordinance). The new bill, however, has received similar outcry. It bans city and county governments from passing new anti-discrimination protections until 2020, leaving full power on civil rights matters up to the state. While it approves the rights of transgender people to the restroom of their choice, but it also approves the rights of businesses to ban such acts.

Discussion of the issue was renewed Friday when U.S. Department of Justice dropped a lawsuit against North Carolina that was filed under Obama in May of 2016. The lawsuit sought action against the state for discrimination against members of the transgender community and violation of federal civil rights statutes.  The lawsuit was dropped by the Trump administration following the passage of the new law, which is just a half-page in length.

TEXAS

Texas has become the next state to throw its hat in the ring on the matter of LGBT+ discrimination.

The Texas House State Affairs Committee holds a meeting this Wednesday to hear Rep. Ron Simmons’ HB2899.

HB2899 is a one-page piece of legislation that would bar attempts by cities and counties to pass non-discrimination ordinances adding groups not already covered by state law. The bill would also nullify any preexisting local non-discrimination measures not in-line with state law. While it does not state specific measures against any group of the LGBT+ spectrum, LGBT+ groups are the only major minority not currently covered by Texas state law.

In March, the Texas Senate approved a bill to force transgender students to use the bathroom of the “biological” gender. The House has refused to vote on the bill, presumably to guard themselves from claims of blatant discrimination as they try to pass this more subversive discrimination bill.

FEDERAL

Trump has already taken federal action to repeal a mandate put in place by Obama to protect transgender students. The mandate stated schools receiving federal funding had to make efforts to accommodate transgender students’ rights to appropriate bathroom usage and protection under Title IX.

Trump’s repeal of this federal mandate prompted the Supreme Court to cancel an upcoming hearing regarding the issue of transgender bathroom rights brought forth by Virginia student Gavin Grimm. Grimm is a member of the transgender community and a student at a public school in Gloucester County, Virginia who sued for the right to use the bathroom of his identified gender. SCOTUS was set to hear the case filed by the school board of Gloucester county, but Trump’s revocation of transgender rights nullified Grimm’s only legal standing and stayed the case in favor of Gloucester’s right to refuse him access to the men’s restroom.

(Stay tuned for more from me in the next week as news comes out of Texas regarding the fate of HB2899 and its impact on the queer community in Texas.)

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