Republican Assembly "compromise" on transgender bathroom legislation is a disaster for LGBTQ rights.
In the past week, North Carolina has become deeply conflicted by the repeal of the Bathroom Bill. Originally passed on February 22nd, local ordinance prohibited discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Just a month later, NC Senate eliminated these anti-discrimination protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people with the House Bill 2, known as HB 2. Under HB 2, transgender people must use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender identity assigned at birth. Additionally, HB 2 restricted LBGTQ protections by nullifying local ordinances regarding wages, employment, and public accommodations, as well as eliminating causes of action for workplace discrimination under state law.
Upon hearing about the repeal, outrage spread nationwide. PayPal pulled plans to create 400 jobs in the North Carolina, and Deutsche Bank followed by canceling an expansion that would have provided another 250 jobs. Kellogg called off a $1.5 million dollar conference planned to be held in the state. Additionally, California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia banned publicly-funded travel to North Carolina. Lionsgate, the NBA, NCAA, NFL, and X-Games have also threatened to boycott.
In response, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper is now seeking a repeal to HB 2. However, a twisted rebuttal by the Republican General Assembly is demanding that local governments are revoked the ability to pass their own anti-discrimination ordinances. In this case, the state would control all regulations on bathrooms. However, the new bill removes the HB 2 verbiage about who is allowed to use which bathroom. Governor Roy Cooper supports the repeal but seems resigned to the compromise proposed by the Republicans, stating ”l support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise that will be introduced tomorrow. It’s not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation.”
The proposed HB 2 measure, “HB 142” has been met with collective disgust from human rights and LBGTQ advocates, including Human Rights Campaign, Equality North Carolina, Lambda Legal and the ACLU. The measure states “State agencies, boards, offices, departments, institutions, branches of government, including The University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Community College System, and political subdivisions of the State, including local boards of education, are preempted from regulation of access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities, except in accordance with an act of the General Assembly.” Further, the bill suspends the action of any city to regulate private employment practices or public accommodations until December of 2020.
It is important for transgender individuals to have access to multi-sex single occupancy restrooms or be able to use the facility they feel comfortable with that corresponds to their gender identity. Forcing a transgender person to use the restroom according to their assigned gender makes them vulnerable to harassment— in a decidedly unsafe space, where violent acts can take place without intervention or surveillance. Download a free copy of the late transgender activist Leslie Feinberg’s memoir here.