On March 23, North Carolina legislators passed a highly controversial bill stating that people using city bathrooms are only able to use the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate. Additionally, North Carolina cities were barred from passing more general anti-discrimination laws. But the obvious consequence of this bill, signed into law by North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory, is that the lives of transgender people in the state will be strongly affected. Under House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, transgender citizens are now prevented from using the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. So if a transgender person was born a female but lives as a male, he still will be required to use the women’s bathroom in North Carolina.
While Republicans in the state Senate voted in favor of the bill unanimously, Senate Democrats chose to walk out and simply not vote at all as a way to take a stand against the bill. The session to pass the bill was prompted by an ordinance passed earlier in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Charlotte ordinance included protections for sexual orientations and gender identifications, which meant in part that transgender citizens could use the bathroom that they identified with rather than the bathroom that their birth certificate mandated.
North Carolina Republicans have defended the bill by emphasizing the need for privacy and the need to protect women and children from biological males. Governor Pat McCrory tweeted about his signing of the bill: “Ordinance defied common sense, allowing men to use women’s bathroom/locker room for instance. That’s why I signed bipartisan bill to stop it.”
Some women and children have supported McCrory’s signing, such as junior Chloe Jefferson of Greenville Christian Academy, who felt sexual predators might try to take advantage of the law. On the flip side, the bill has had much backlash, both statewide and nationally. Several big firms in North Carolina have opposed the bill, along with North Carolina Democrats like Senate leader Dan Blue. Blue stated of the bill: “This is a direct affront to equality, civil rights and local autonomy.”
Nationally, many have reacted negatively, including well-known Americans like Caitlyn Jenner. Jenner, who was born male but identifies as a woman, released a tweet asking for others to join her in an effort to stop the bill. Likewise, National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver warned that the location of the 2017 All-Star Game will be changed from Charlotte, North Carolina, if the bill is not repealed. Musicians including Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen have cancelled concerts in the state. President Obama himself, in fact, expressed his opinion at a press conference in London, saying that the bill was “wrong” and “should be overturned.”
And what do the presidential candidates have to say about the matter? Originally, Republican front-runner Donald Trump stated his opposition to the bill, saying North Carolina should “leave it the way it is,” especially considering the economic problems that the bill has caused for the state. Trump added to Fox News shortly after, however, that the decision is up to North Carolina. Fellow Republican candidate Ted Cruz supports the law, while rival John Kasich did not condemn the bill but said he probably wouldn’t have signed it had it come to him when he was governor of Ohio. Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders criticized the law and called for an end to discrimination against transgender people.