Rutgers faculty explain impact of transgender 'bathroom bill'
In a constant battle for LGBT rights, significant strides have been made, including the nationwide legalization of gay marriage.
But last spring, North Carolina passed a law prohibiting transgender individuals from using public restrooms in accordance with the gender they identify with.
The North Carolina House Bill 2 (HB2) Law came under scrutiny since its proposal and implementation, so much so that it has prompted the NBA to move the 2017 all-star game from Charlotte to New Orleans for its February 2017 premiere.
“North Carolina HB2 eliminated anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people in North Carolina as well as explicitly targeting transgender people for exclusion from restrooms consistent with their gender identity,” said Katie Eyer, an associate law professor at the Rutgers School of Law—Camden.
The law has been protested as targeting transgender people.
“In North Carolina, everyone is permitted to use gender-designated bathrooms in public buildings and schools that match their gender identity, except for transgender people,” said Carlos Ball, a law professor at the Rutgers School of Law—Newark. “This is a law that targets transgender people and it should be repealed."
In a debate hosted by Rutgers Law School, an opposition was brought forth that the North Carolina law prevents the risk of perverts and harassers in public restrooms.
“I like to call these people trans-pretenders,” said Robyn Gigl, a transgender-rights attorney. “If they’re pretending they’re not really transgender, they should be dealt with according to the law.”
People want to use the bathroom they identify and are most comfortable with, Gigl said. The problem North Carolina is trying to solve is not actually a problem but reinforces discrimination techniques in society.
“New Jersey is governed by the law against discrimination (LAD)," Gigl said. “The law in New Jersey allows people to use sex-segregated facilities in places of public accommodation in accordance with their gender identity and expression,” she said.
This law was implemented in 2007.
“New Jersey has been a leader in ensuring that schools, workplaces and places of public accommodation are safe and inclusive spaces for everyone,” Eyer said.
The issues seen in other parts of the country are not seen here because transgender children have used bathrooms in accordance for nearly a decade without any problems, Gigl said.
The Garden State is not alone when it comes to combating anti-discrimination in the LGBT community, as there are 20 states with similar laws including California, New York and Rhode Island which have seen no issues, Gigl said.
The election may have left Americans worried because federal protections for the LGBT community might not happen, but Gigl said New Jersey is safe, considering President-elect Donald Trump believes anti-discrimination laws are up to the state's discretion.
“I don’t think there is politically any possibility of a law like NC HB2 being enacted in New Jersey,” Eyer said, “But if it were, it would mean that New Jersey’s statewide anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT community would be eliminated.”
This would make anti-discrimination efforts illegal, crippling the foundation of a nine-year initiative to protect the LGBT community.
"If people can begin to understand that people want to use a bathroom according to their gender identity, it's because that's who they are," she said. "Transgender people are using the bathroom for the same reason everyone else does -- they have to go to the bathroom."
Sharbel Skaff is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in exercise science. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.