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3 Reasons Why Bathroom Laws Matter

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May 31, 2016

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Bathroom Laws Matter

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3 Reasons Why Bathroom Laws Matter

Source: Cognoscenti
by Kari Hong

North Carolina may be getting all the attention with its bigoted so called “bathroom law,” known as HB2, targeting transgender people, but it’s not alone — nine other states have similar laws pending.

While the Tar Heel state may be setting the example in hateful and fear-based legislation, Massachusetts is on the verge of joining the federal government and 17 other states in showing the country what it means to be compassionate and tolerant. Lawmakers on Beacon Hill are poised to pass a law, S. 735, that stands for everything North Carolina’s law doesn’t — banning gender-identity discrimination and allowing transgender people to use public facilities based on current gender identity rather than their gender at birth.

there has not been a single case in the United States of a transgender person attacking a child in a public bathroom.

Most people are on the sideline of this debate, not sure why there is a fuss. But the fight over which bathroom transgender people will use is important for three reasons.

First, HB2 and all other similar bans are unnecessary. The defenders claim they protect children. But on the matter of public safety, there has not been a single case in the United States of a transgender person attacking a child in a public bathroom. And 90 percent of the victims of child abuse know their attackers. Jerry Sandusky, Dennis Hastert and Josh Duggar are the typical child molester, men in authority who abuse their positions of trust, not strangers who attack at random.

If people want a response to the small number of bathroom attacks, the solution is to amend existing criminal statutes that deal with assault rape, and public indecency by adding sentencing enhancements if the crime occurs in any bathroom.

Second, bathroom laws create more problems for everyone. North Carolina, and the pending laws like HB2, are now placing children in harm’s way. The strict segregation of the sexes inherent in the laws means that mothers can no longer bring their young sons (and fathers their young daughters) with them into the bathroom. Separating families and sending young children alone into public bathrooms is more of a public safety threat than what the status quo ever posed.

Third, bathroom laws are unique in inflicting state-sponsored humiliation. Because these laws mandate that people use the facility corresponding to the gender of their birth, it means that Caitlyn Jenner, and those like her, cannot use the women’s bathroom. Even though that option would be more comfortable for Jenner (not to mention the others in that restroom), the bathroom laws say she has to use the men’s room (and transgender men who are masculine, have facial hair and look more manly than Brad Pitt, must use the women’s room). If Jenner uses the women’s room, she is a criminal; if she uses the men’s, she will stand out, be uncomfortable and possibly be harassed or roughed up.

As Attorney General Loretta Lynch has indicated, the last time states mandated personal identity was when they enacted the “one-drop rule,” which was part of Jim Crow, aimed at classifying those with even “one drop” of African-American blood in the family history as being black.

Bathroom laws are unconstitutional. This is not a matter of States’ rights. This is not a frivolous matter.

By generous estimates, transgender people represent less than 1 percent of the U.S. population but they receive more than their fair share of harm. For example, roughly 90 percent report job discrimination or harassment; they are 1.5 times as likely to be sexually attacked and are six times more likely to experience physical violence when interacting with police than the general population. Of the anti-LGBT homicide victims in the past year, 72 percent were transgender women.

The bathroom laws targeting this group for further harm makes them even more outrageous. In the first week after the North Carolina law was enacted, advocates reported that calls from transgender youth to suicide prevention hotlines doubled.

It is for these reasons that the federal government responded as aggressively as it did, both by giving North Carolina a matter of days to repeal the measure and then by following up with a national directive to protect all students in public schools.

Bathroom laws are unconstitutional. This is not a matter of states’ rights. This is not a frivolous matter. Massachusetts seems to understand this. The state Senate passed a law protecting transgender people by a vote of 33 to 4. The House and Gov. Charlie Baker should follow suit. There is no other way to put it: These laws are wrong and are beneath the dignity of us all.

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