(UR) Raleigh — In North Carolina on Wednesday, it became illegal for transgender people to choose a public restroom based on their gender identity after the General Assembly voted to pass a bill that day. The governor signed it into law that night.
The state legislative session had been thrown together just the day before, in direct response to a non-discrimination ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council last month.
In a 7-4 vote on February 22, Charlotte councilmembers voted to expand protections for people based on their sexual orientation and gender expression. The ordinance, among other things, would’ve allowed transgender people to choose a restroom that correlated to their gender identity, not simply to what it said on their birth certificate.
But Wednesday’s actions at the state level trump Charlotte’s decision — and much more.
In addition to limiting, statewide, the transgendered on the issue of restrooms, the bill also forbids municipalities from assembling their own independent non-discrimination policies.
“This is a direct affront to equality, civil rights and local autonomy,” Dan Blue, Senate Democratic Leader, said in a statement. Blue, along with his fellow Democrats in the Senate, walked out of Wednesday’s vote in protest.
The move by North Carolina comes at a time of nationwide debate regarding the right of transgender people to have access to the public restrooms of their choosing. Recently, however, it seemed as if the tide might be turning on that issue.
On March 1, the governor of South Dakota vetoed a bill that would’ve prevented transgender students from choosing restrooms based on their gender identities. South Dakota is the first state to adopt such a measure.
Then, earlier this week, a measure in Tennessee seeking to restrict transgendered people’s access to restrooms died on the legislative floor. The governor, who was concerned over the state’s federal funding, was opposed to the measure.
Of the recent vote, Sarah Preston of the ACLU of North Carolina said that the state had “gone against the trend.” She also made note of the extremity of the bill, observing that it “undoes all local non-discrimination laws and specifically excludes gay and transgender people from legal protections.”
But Representative Dan Bishop defended the General Assembly’s decision, saying, “What we are doing is preserving a sense of privacy people have long expected.”
This sentiment was echoed by North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore. “One of the biggest issues was about privacy,” he said in defense of the bill. “The way the ordinance was written by City Council in Charlotte, it would have allowed a man to go into a bathroom, locker or any changing facility, where women are — even if he was a man. We were concerned.”
No doubt debate on this polarizing issue will continue to increase as more and more governments — on both the state and local level — are forced to make decisions.
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