Transphobic state laws must be addressed nationally

By Associate Editor

A controversial bill signed into law March 23 by Republican North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has banned transgender residents from using public facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity rather than their assigned sex at birth.

While under legislative deliberation, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act was criticized by several organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed a lawsuit arguing the new law is unconstitutional because it discriminates on the basis of sex, according to a March 28 ACLU press release. 

In a March 25 statement, McCrory’s press secretary, Graham Wilson, accused the press of inaccurately reporting on the law and inflaming the public. McCrory also took to Twitter to defend it.

“I signed bipartisan legislation to stop the breach of basic privacy and etiquette, ensure privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms,” McCrory tweeted March 23. 

North Carolina, sadly, is not alone in enabling LGBT discrimination and an ever-present transphobic culture through legislation. Bills like this one have been proposed—and in some cases passed—in several other states.

But while states including Arkansas and Tennessee have passed similar bills, others have not. South Dakota’s governor, Dennis Daugaard, vetoed such a bill in March, and Georgia’s governor, Nathan Deal, also vetoed one after major backlash, proving that passing these bills causes unneeded animosity for states that legislate to discriminate. 

More than three dozen laws in 16 states have been introduced this year, according to a March 1 article by The Advocate. Illinois has House Bill 4474 currently in the Human Services Committee, according to a March 28 Chicagoist article.

Illinois’ bill is not only drawing criticism from local LGBT advocacy groups but also mental health groups, due to the frequency at which transgender people are harassed, according to Michael Ziri, director of public policy for Equality Illinois, an LGBT advocacy group. 

These bills should be opposed at the state level but federal legislation is needed to stop states from creating such barriers.

The Equality Act, H.R. 3185 and S. 1858, would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include the LGBT community among the groups that have federal redress for discrimination in employment, housing, education, federal funding, credit, public accommodations and jury service, according to the Human Rights Campaign website. The bills currently have support from several major businesses—ranging from Abercrombie & Fitch to Target—-as well as from President Barack Obama,but have received little consideration since they were introduced in July 2015.

Even passage of a federal law is a distant possibility without a change of heart from Congress, national advocacy—whether through rhetoric from candidates like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders or from average citizens and organizations—needs to be at the forefront to expose the injustice of laws like these all over the country.