Lawmakers in three states have filed bills that would regulate bathroom access in public buildings, despite cries from critics who call the bills discriminatory against transgender residents.
Language used in the proposed “bathroom bills” — filed in Texas on Thursday, and Virginia and Kentucky earlier this week — mirrors that of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, a law that polarised the nation and led to hundreds of millions of dollars of lost statewide revenue.
All three bills would effectively force transgender residents to use the public restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their biological sex as listed on their birth certificates, rather than their gender identity.
While none of the proposed bills use the word “transgender,” LGBT advocates are already condemning them, arguing they needlessly single out the transgender community.
“Across the country … lawmakers are making clear that transgender people will again be the relentless targets of discriminatory legislation,” Chase Strangio, an attorney with the ACLU who is a transgender man, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.
“Unconstitutional, unenforceable, and harmful, these bills send the message to trans people that our very existence is a problem for the lawmakers charged with protecting us.”
Meanwhile, the lawmakers behind the bills insist they are necessary to protect female bathroom users from male sexual predators.
“Some guys will use anything to make a move on some teenage girls or women,” said Robert G. Marshall, the Republican delegate who introduced Virginia’s bill. “Mere separation of the sexes should not be considered discrimination.”
Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican and champion of the Texas bill, said the “Privacy Protection Act” will be a top priority of the state’s Republican-controlled legislature.
“Transgender people have obviously been going into the ladies’ room for a long time, and there hasn’t been an issue that I know of,” Patrick said, according to a local ABC affiliate.
“But if laws are passed by cities and counties and school districts that allow men to go into a bathroom because of the way they feel, we will not be able to stop sexual predators from taking advantage of that law, like sexual predators take advantage of the internet.”
Patrick has been an outspoken proponent of North Carolina’s HB2, which on top of the bathroom provision, also prevents local governments from passing non-discrimination ordinances to protect LGBT residents.
Since HB2’s passage in March, North Carolina has seen businesses boycott the state and freeze major expansions, high-profile musicians cancel shows, and the NBA relocate the 2017 All-Star Game, originally scheduled for Charlotte.
The economic fallout in Texas could be even more damaging. A St. Edwards University study unveiled this week found that anti-LGBT laws could cost Texas as much as $8.5 billion and 185,000 jobs.
Robert Marshall, the Virginia delegate, did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Democratic Rep. Rick Nelson, architect of Kentucky’s bill.
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