Friday, March 25, 2016

'Bathroom Battles' Erupt Over Transgender Issue

RALEIGH, N. C.—A broad new law here requires transgender people to use the public bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate, a rebuke of a move by the state’s largest city and the latest skirmish in the “bathroom battles” popping up in statehouses and city halls.

North Carolina on Wednesday became the first state to enact legislation restricting access to sex-segregated facilities on the basis of sex assigned at birth, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At least 13 other states are considering similar bills, according to the nonpartisan group.

Several big cities have moved in the opposite direction. Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order requiring city agencies to allow people to use the city’s 2,200 public restrooms based on their self-declared gender identity. Philadelphia recently required private businesses to use gender-neutral signs on single-occupancy bathrooms.

But Houston voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure last year to extend nondiscrimination protections to gay and transgender people.

Ten states are considering “religious-freedom” laws, according to NCSL, which could allow businesses to refuse to work with gay couples on religious grounds. North Carolina approved a law last year allowing magistrates to opt out of performing same-sex marriages.

The flurry of proposals on LGBT issues could be a backlash to changes playing out in federal court, particularly the recent legalization of gay marriage, said Maxine Eichner, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. But, she added, “The story with LGBT rights has been surprising—not in that there’s backlash given how quickly views on this issue have changed, but that there hasn’t been more backlash.”

The Republican National Committee, the Washington, D.C.-based group that sets the national Republican platform, is encouraging state legislatures to push back against what it describes as the Obama administration’s federal overreach on “gender identity politics,” particularly in schools.

The RNC adopted a resolution in February encouraging legislatures “to enact laws that protect student privacy and limit the use of restrooms, locker rooms and similar facilities to members of the sex to whom the facility is designated.”

The Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly passed the bathroom bill in an emergency session Wednesday night. The move came in response to an ordinance passed last month by the predominantly Democratic Charlotte City Council. State lawmakers debated, approved and had the signature of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory within 12 hours.

Civil-rights advocates say the fast track left no room for public debate and resulted in a mishmash that repeals local protections against discrimination based on race, national origin, sex and sexual orientation. These advocates say that means it puts at risk billions of dollars in federal Title IX funding, which goes to an array of public programs, including education, and prohibits discrimination...

Plus, watch at ABC News, "Transgender Law Signed by NC Governor."