Republican state legislators in North Carolina dealt a blow to LGBTQ rights Wednesday.
The Republican-led General Assembly approved a bill Wednesday that prevents cities from passing their own anti-discrimination legislation.
The issue centres on an ordinance the city of Charlotte recently passed. The ordinance bans the discrimination of LGBTQ people, specifically allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity.
Wednesday’s legislation, signed into law by North Carolina Republican governor Pat McCrory, effectively overturned Charlotte’s ordinance.
Supporters of the recently passed legislation have cited the debunked “bathroom myth” — that transgender non-discrimination laws give sexual predators access to women’s restrooms, according to Media Matters for America, a nonprofit progressive organisation.
As Republicans have taken over the state legislature, progressives have looked to use local city governments, that lean left, to enact change. The bill passed by the state legislature on Wednesday is an effort to preempt these local governments, reports The Atlantic.
McCrory personally objected to Charlotte’s ordinance saying that Charlotte’s inclusionary law would put women and children at risk.
“This shift in policy could also create major public safety issues by putting citizens in possible danger from deviant actions by individuals taking improper advantage of a bad policy,” McCrory said in an email to ThinkProgress, after Charlotte passed its ordinance. “Also, this action of allowing a person with male anatomy, for example, to use a female restroom or locker room will most likely cause immediate State legislative intervention which I would support as governor.”
Others Republicans shared his sentiment.
“It’s common sense — biological men should not be in women’s showers, locker rooms and bathrooms,” GOP Rep. Dean Arp of Monroe said, according to the Associated Press.
Even some citizens have expressed similar concerns.
“It’s going to open the door for people with malicious intent who would masquerade as transgenders to come in and actually take advantage and have access to our kids,” Donna Eaton of Carey said, according to Talking Points Memo.
Police departments and sexual assault experts, however, beg to differ, according to Media Matters, “a non-profit progressive information and research center,” as the organisation defines itself.
In a new report, Media Matters interviewed 15 experts across the country — from law enforcement officials to sexual assault victim advocates — who all said that the notion that LGBTQ laws open up women’s bathrooms to sexual predators is baseless.
“Sexual assaults stemming from non-discrimination laws are not even remotely a problem,” John Elder, a spokesman for the Minneapolis Police, told Media Matters.
Other police departments around the country also said the “bathroom myth” was unsubstantiated.
“Specifically, as was raised as a concern if the bill were to be passed, there have been no incidents of men dressing up as women to commit crimes in female bathrooms and using the city ordinance as a defence,” Christopher Burke, the superintendent for the Cambridge, Massachusetts police department told Media Matters in an email.
In rare cases, people have tested the law. For example, a man — not dressed as woman — entered the women’s locker room at a Seattle, Washington pool. He reportedly said, “The law has changed, and I have a right to be here,” according to the New York Daily News.
North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger used that instance as a reason why the Charlotte law needed overturning.
“Something a lot worse could happen as a result of this ordinance,” Berger he said, according to the Charlotte News & Observer.
North Carolina’s bill comes on the heels of anti-LGBTQ legislation in Georgia.
Lawmakers in Georgia recently passed a bill that permits faith-based organisations to cite religious beliefs when making decisions about access to their services as well as employment decisions.
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