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Two weeks ago, North Carolina passed a law that requires schools and public agencies to have gender-segregated bathrooms and to prevent people from using a bathroom that doesn’t correspond to their biological sex. Since then, PayPal has canceled plans to build a new operations center in Charlotte, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has banned state employees from making nonessential work trips to North Carolina, and composer Stephen Schwartz hasannounced that he will not allow his musicals to be performed in the state.


Regulating which bathrooms transgender people can use is the latest frontier in the fight over how the country should accommodate transgender people. In November 2015, Houston voters overturned a nondiscrimination ordinance to prevent it from allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms that matched their gender identity. (The ordinance didn’t mention bathrooms directly.) South Dakota passed a narrower bill that would have required students to use bathrooms that matched their biological sex, but Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed it in early March.

I wanted to know if this kind of legislation was limited to these few, high-profile cases, or if other states were considering making similar bathroom laws. I found that North Carolina isn’t alone. Lawmakers in seven states are looking to do something similar: Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Looking at the list shows the contours of the fight — and how different states are struggling to define a person’s “sex.”

I got my numbers from the National Center for Transgender Equality, an advocacy organization that has tracked all state-level bills that were introduced in the 2016 legislative session and contain provisions that the center believes target transgender people. (I confirmed the details of the bills myself.) As of Tuesday, the center was tracking 49 bills, 32 of which dealt with bathroom access. More than a third (12) of those bathroom bills are still actively being considered (the rest died in committee or were otherwise put on hold).

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, sees bathroom access as essential to participating in the world. “If you can’t use the bathroom at work, you can’t work,” she told me. “If you can’t use the bathroom at school, you can’t go to school.”

The majority of both active and inactive1 bills (69 percent) stipulated that multiple-occupancy bathrooms be separated according to users’ biological sex, not by their gender identity. However, about a fifth (22 percent) of the measures did not require separation. The bills that fell into the latter category looked to allow businesses, schools and other establishments to have the option to divide bathrooms without facing a nondiscrimination claim.

Most of the bills would require that public school bathrooms, in particular, be separated by sex. Illinois state Rep. Thomas Morrison was the sponsor of one of those school-related bills. He said he wrote his bill in response to a high-profile fight in Illinois in which a transgender student won access to the women’s restrooms and changing rooms in her school. He framed his bill as reactive, saying he wanted to return to what was once the status quo. “I think it’s appropriate to slow down a little bit,” he said. That North Carolina and other states were working on their own legislation, he said, didn’t factor into his decision.

For measures requiring that bathrooms be sex-segregated, the lawmakers needed to decide how, precisely, they would define biological sex. They used a range of definitions, and in two the definition was tautological (“as biologically defined”).2


Other bills got a lot more specific. Thirteen specified that chromosomes should be taken into account to define sex, but onlyIndiana’s House Bill 1079 was detailed enough to say that a female was defined as someone with “at least one X chromosome and no Y chromosome” and that males included everyone with “at least one X chromosome and at least one Y chromosome.” Washington’s Senate Bill 6548 and House Bill 2589 both allowed some transgender people to use the bathroom that matched their gender identity, provided that they’d had genital surgery and did not have “genitalia of a different gender from that for which the facility is segregated.” All three of those bills are now inactive.

North Carolina’s law has drawn particularly heavy criticism for its pre-emption of local laws. No local government is now permitted to pass a bathroom access or other nondiscrimination law that would conflict with the state law, which has frustrated activists in more liberal enclaves. Only three other bills tracked by the National Center for Transgender Equality — one in Missouri and two others in Washington — also featured pre-emption clauses. Of that threesome, only Missouri’s remains active.

Since the start of this year’s legislative session, bills in seven states have already faded away. But legislation is still under active consideration in seven othersso if those bills move forward, activists may have trouble boycotting all eight.


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For those Republican supporters on the forum out there explain why the GOP do these things? How does this improve life for the average citizen?

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Bernie Sanders declared he was an ally to the transgender community and he vowed to expand transgender protections under existing federal civil rights laws if he’s elected — according to his answers to a presidential questionnaire sent in April by a transgender-rights advocacy group.

More than a month after receiving the same questions, however, Hillary Clinton hasn’t provided answers to the Trans United Fund’s survey — even though her campaign initially indicated she would respond.

“Too often, it seems as if the ‘T’ in LGBT is silent.”

“I think Sanders’s answers were thoughtful and strong,” said Hayden Mora, chair of Trans United Fund’s organizing committee, which was formed this year as a response to a growing effort by conservatives to block and repeal transgender rights.

In contrast, Mora said the group’s leaders “feel disappointed and perplexed” by Clinton’s silence.

“She has been a champion on these issues,” said Mora. “But I’m disappointed. The trans community is in tremendous crisis, not just due to issues of violence and HIV, but also because there is a national coordinated political attack by extremists now more than ever.”

Mora said Sanders responded to the 11 pages of questions within 10 days, expressing support for a wide range of proposals, from facilitating health care services by federal agencies to banning discrimination by federal contractors overseas.

“Too often, it seems as if the ‘T’ in LGBT is silent,” Sanders wrote. “In my administration, the T will not be silent.”

Sanders said that he supports using civil rights laws to advance transgender nondiscrimination policies “until Congress formally adds those protections to our laws.”

In the past month, the Obama administration’s Justice Department used an evolving interpretation of civil rights laws to bring a lawsuit against North Carolina, challenging an anti-transgender statute, and it issued guidance with the Education Department on ways to accommodate transgender students.

“The last three weeks have shown the power and importance of the federal government in protecting the barest minimums of basic rights for trans folks,” Mora said. “It’s powerful that the Sanders campaign took the time to complete the survey and are unabashed in their support.”

“We feel disappointed and perplexed” by Clinton’s silence.

The Clinton campaign — which had issued a detailed LGBT policy paper last year — initially indicated it would answer the group’s questionnaire in an April 11 email that Trans United Fund shared with BuzzFeed News. “The Secretary has been a leader on many trans issues, and we look forward to responding,” a staffer on the campaign wrote in the email.

But one month later, more emails between the parties show, the campaign had not returned the questionnaire or responded to a request to summarize Clinton’s positions.

Sanders has not always fleshed out his position on transgender rights, either. In April, Sanders said he “would do everything I can” to overturn anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina and Mississippi. However, he did not answer questions from BuzzFeed News at the time about how he might do that.

Providing slightly more detail, Clinton said at the time she would challenge those state laws “through legal action in the courts, pursuing federal legislation, or using the bully pulpit to address actions in the states.”

The presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, and his campaign also did not respond to Trans United Fund’s questionnaire. Clinton’s and Trump’s campaigns did not immediately reply to BuzzFeed News’ questions Monday about why they did not respond.


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The Supremes will rule on transgender toilets this session:


The Supreme Court will wade into the issue of transgender rights and review an Obama administration directive that says public schools must let transgender students use the bathroom that best fits with their gender identity.

The Court said Friday it would take up the suit. The case in question involves a 17-year-old transgender teenage boy, Gavin Grimm, who sued the school board of his Virginia high school. The principal of Gloucester High School had at first allowed Grimm to use the men’s room, but the school board reversed that policy and mandated that students use the restroom that corresponds to their “biological genders.” Transgender students such as Grimm could use private, single-stall bathrooms instead.

Grimm sued, saying the school’s position violated his civil rights. A federal appeals court ruled in favor of Grimm, saying the school board’s policy violated a Title IX provision that bars discrimination based on sex in institutions that receive federal money. The Obama administration, in its guidance to public schools, had said that provision extends to transgender rights — logic with which the appeals court agreed.

The Supreme Court granted a stay on that case in August — which meant the school board didn’t have to comply with the lower court’s ruling — while it decided whether to take up the case. Now that it is, the court, which still has only eight justices, will rule on the issue this term.



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The Trump administration has dropped the federal government’s challenge to a nationwide injunction issued last year that blocked the fulfillment of Obama administration guidelines stating that transgender students’ access to bathrooms and other gender-segregated school facilities was protected under existing federal civil rights law.


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Republican President Donald Trump's administration was expected to revoke landmark guidelines issued to public schools in defense of transgender student rights, according to a draft document seen on Wednesday by Reuters.

The draft reverses former Democratic President Barack Obama's signature initiative on transgender rights, which instructed public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms matching their gender identity. (Read the draft here: tmsnrt.rs/2kMAGAS)

The draft document, a joint effort of the Justice and Education departments, could be subject to change before it is sent to schools across the country. It may be released as early as Wednesday, according to advocacy groups which have been in contact with administration officials.

"We are hearing that it will be rescinded today," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The document states that its purpose is to withdraw the guidance of May 13, 2016, while Trump's Justice and Education departments "further consider the legal issues involved."

Last year's guidance, issued by Obama's Justice and Education departments, threatened to withhold federal funding if schools forced transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender assigned at birth against their will.


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Last Friday, San Antonio-native Ashley Smith took a photo (above) with Texas Governor Greg Abbott at a rally where he announced his bid for reelection.

However, it turns out Smith is a transgender woman, and Abbott has supported a discriminatory anti-trans bill that would regulate her bathroom use.

The day after the rally, the architect shared the photo on Facebook to ask the question: "How will the Potty Police know I'm transgender if the Governor doesn't?"

Ashley told CNN she hopes the photo illustrates that "sometimes it's not really apparent who transgender people are" and that trans individuals are "just regular folks."


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