There was a showdown in Houston last fall. This spring, North Carolina became the battleground. By now, confrontations have flared across the country over whether to protect or curtail the right of transgender people to use public restrooms in accordance with their gender identity.
The upshot, in virtually every case, has been emotional debate over privacy, personal safety and prejudice.
Many of those who favor limiting transgender rights contend that expanding anti-bias protections to bathrooms and locker rooms raises the risk of sexual predators exploiting the laws to molest women and girls on those premises.
Transgender-rights advocates consider this argument malicious and false. They say that 18 states and scores of cities have experienced no significant public safety problems linked to their existing laws allowing transgender people to use bathrooms based on the gender they consider themselves to be.
On Monday, the U.S. Justice Department weighed in, suing to overturn North Carolina’s new law restricting transgender bathroom access and warning that any similar measures elsewhere in the country could also face challenges on grounds they violate federal nondiscrimination rules. North Carolina has sued to keep the law in place.
Washington state is among the many jurisdictions with ongoing debate over bathroom access. Conservative activists are gathering signatures with hopes of putting a measure on the November ballot that would override state and local protections against gender-identity discrimination in public accommodations and require public schools to restrict transgender students’ bathroom and locker room access.
“Stand with us as we stand to protect women and children from this dangerous rule,” says a group pushing the ballot measure, in its online appeal for volunteers and donations. The group is called Just Want Privacy, reflecting the view that opposition to the laws goes beyond safety concerns for some.
Among those supporting the current rules and opposing the ballot initiative is John Lovick, former sheriff of Snohomish County.