North Carolina takes another step in walking back their “bathroom bill”

By Penny Robo

North Carolina no longer requiring trans people to amend birth certificates to use public restrooms matching identity.

2016’s HB2 , North Carolina’s infamous “bathroom bill,” was far from a success. A mass (and very public) exodus of prominent entities ranging from the NBA to PayPal to Adidas (and even Ringo Starr) followed in the wake of HB 2’s passing, which prevented trans people from using the appropriate public restroom accommodations, and suits were immediately filed challenging the validity of such a law. Through considerable public shaming and legal efforts, HB 2 was officially dead not long after its birth, but elements of it were never fully repealed by its official replacement, HB 142, which left sufficient ambiguity to continue affecting trans people in their everyday lives.

Although the explicit ban on access to restrooms and locker rooms by trans people was removed with 142, NC’s General Assembly argued that such restrictions were still permissible, as the law banned local governments from passing anti-discrimination measures. I wrote about this before, but you’ll be forgiven for remembering it as just a fever-induced nightmare rather than actual, factual reality, so I’ll give you a moment to re-parse that concept. Good Lord.

As such, the ACLU’s original lawsuit wasn’t dropped but instead amended to fight HB 2’s replacement.

Last week, US District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder approved a settlement that carved away some of the vague language and cemented that the law can’t “be construed to prevent transgender individuals from using the restrooms that align with their gender identity.” It’s not a complete reversal, as the approved settlement finds non-discrimination applicable to only certain public restroom accommodations at this time, including state offices and parks, historic sites, etc.. It’s far from all-encompassing, but is an important step in defining the reach of HB 142’s supposed repeal of HB 2.

“Being able to use facilities that match our gender is a basic necessity for participating in public life and being treated as full members of society. It is not a luxury.” —Joaquín Carcaño

Forbes had a spectacular little line in their coverage, after navigating the intricacies of this particular case: “To those who might ask, why is this important?”

I’d argue that the question should be “how is this important”, transforming that “why should we care” attitude into “why this particular step helps society”, but alas. Beyond being pretty damn unnecessary as a segue, it also serves as a dim reminder that for a helluva lot of people, this is an issue that doesn’t even ping on their radar as something worthy of a passing thought, despite their insistence on taking a stance nonetheless.

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About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender sociology, public health, psychiatry, history of medicine, cognitive science, the social processes of science, transgender feminism, and human rights, taking an analytic approach that intersects these many perspectives and is guided by the lived experiences of transgender people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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