North Carolina’s House Bill 2, better known as the “Bathroom Law”, has taken center stage and has created a great debate. On March 23, 2016, Gov. Pat McCrory signed the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, also known as House Bill 2 or HB2. The law bans people from using bathrooms that don’t match the sex indicated on their birth certificates, which opponents argue is discriminatory toward the transgender community.
Supporters of the new law say it is a safety and privacy issue, protecting women and children from men who use the law as a pretense to deliberately enter the wrong restroom. Legislation involving the transgender community is not only happening in the state of North Carolina, but Mississippi and Tennessee have pushed similar legislation as well.
On Lawyer 2 Lawyer, hosts J. Craig Williams and Bob Ambrogi join Ilona Turner, legal director at the Transgender Law Center, Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute and Professor Katie Eyer from Rutgers Law School as they take a look at North Carolina’s HB2 controversy, reaction, litigation surrounding HB2, anti-LGBT discrimination bills and LGBT protections nationally, and the quest for equal rights for the transgender community.
Ilona Turner was a staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), where her work frequently focused on issues affecting transgender clients. She previously practiced law at Cohen, Weiss, & Simon LLP in New York City, representing unions, union-run health and retirement plans, and employees. In the early 2000s she worked as the lobbyist for Equality California, where she helped to shepherd groundbreaking legislation that prohibited housing and employment discrimination against transgender people and dramatically expanded the rights of domestic partners in California.
Andrew Beckwith is a graduate of Gordon College and the University of Minnesota Law School. Andrew is a judge advocate in the United States Marine Corps Reserve where he holds the rank of major. He has also served as an immigration trial attorney for the Boston office of the Department of Homeland Security.
Katie Eyer joined the Rutgers law faculty as an assistant professor in June 2012. Katie also litigated civil rights cases prior to entering academia full time, and secured a number of precedents in the Third Circuit expanding the legal rights of LGBT and disabled employees.
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Lawyer 2 Lawyer: North Carolina’s HB2 Controversy, Transgender Legislation, and Litigation – 5/17/2016
Intro: That is still the case that rampant discrimination is seen by many transgender people in this country. That’s something that I think there’s a growing understanding that is deeply problematic from a moral perspective to have in our society.
The grey areas that we’re concerned about really are the definitions of gender identity in both the proposed legislation in Massachusetts as well as I think the laws in Charlotte seems to be sort of the same type of definitions throughout the country. And that is the definitions of gender identity are extremely broad, don’t require any sort of medical or psychological diagnosis or treatment or hormonal therapies or surgeries. It’s all based on someone’s inner feelings.
It’s clear that transgender people and lesbian gay and bixsexual people are the subjects of a lot of stereotyping, bias, and discrimination similar to other groups throughout history that have been minority groups that have been unpopular.
Welcome to the award-winning podcast Lawyer to Layer, with J. Craig Williams and Robert Ambrogi, bringing you the latest legal news and observations with the leading experts in the legal profession. You’re listening to Legal Talk Network.
- Craig Williams: Hello and welcome to Lawyer 2 Lawyer on the Legal Talk Network. This is Craig Williams coming to you from Southern California. I write a legal blog called May it Please the Court.
Bob Ambrogi: And this is Bob Ambrogi coming to you from Boston, Massachusetts where I write a blog called Lawsites and also another blog called Media Law. I also co host another show on the Legal Talk Network called Law Technology Now with Monica Bay.
- Craig Williams: And before we introduce today’s topic, we’d like to thank our sponsor, Clio, an online practice management software program for lawyers at www.GoClio.com.
Bob Ambrogi: North Carolina’s House Bill 2 which has come to be known as the bathroom law has taken center stage and created quite a bit of controversy. On March 23rd, Governor Pat McCleary signed the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act which is how it’s spelled to the law bans people from using bathrooms that don’t match the sex indicated on their birth certificates which opponents argue is discriminatory towards the transgender community.
- Craig Williams: Well, Bob, supporters of the new law say it is a safety and privacy issue protecting women and children from men who use the law as a pretense to deliberately enter the wrong restroom. Legislation involving the transgender community is not only happening in the state of North Carolina, as we heard, but also Mississippi and Tennessee have pushed similar legislation.
Bob Ambrogi: And even here in Massachusetts there is a bill that’s being described as the bathroom bill. It’s a bill that would take the opposite tackle on North Carolina and expand protections under the law for transgender people. But again, the debate is kind of focusing on this bathroom issue. So today on lawyer 2 Lawyer, we’re going to take a look at North Carolina’s controversy and take it nationwide as well and look for a reaction, talk about some of the legal issues here and the quest for equal rights for the transgender community.
- Craig Williams: Well, Bob, our first guest today is Ilona. She is the legal director at the Transgender Law Center. Ilona was a staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), where her work frequently focused on issues affecting transgender clients. She previously practiced law at Cohen, Weiss, & Simon LLP in New York City, representing unions, union-run health and retirement plans, and employees. In the early 2000s she worked as the lobbyist for Equality California, where she helped to shepherd groundbreaking legislation that prohibited housing and employment discrimination against transgender people and dramatically expanded the rights of domestic partners in California. Welcome to the show, Ilona.
Ilona Turner: Thanks so much for having me.
Bob Ambrogi: And joining us also today is Andrew Beckwith. Andrew is president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, a nonpartisan public policy organization dedicated to strengthening families in Massachusetts. Andrew is a graduate of Gordon College and the University of Minnesota Law School. Andrew is a judge advocate in the United States Marine Corps Reserve where he holds the rank of major. He has also served as an immigration trial attorney for the Boston office of the Department of Homeland Security. Welcome to Lawyer 2 Lawyer, Andrew Beckwith.
Andrew Beckwith: It’s a pleasure to be here, thanks for having me on.
- Craig Williams: And Bob, our final guest today is Professor Katie Eyer from Rutgers law school. Katie joined the Rutgers law faculty as an assistant professor in June 2012. Katie also litigated civil rights cases prior to entering academia full time, and secured a number of precedents in the Third Circuit expanding the legal rights of LGBT and disabled employees including Powell v. Weiss Business Forms and Miller v. American Airlines. Welcome to the show, Katie.
Katie Eyer: Thank you for having me, it’s a pleasure to be on the show.
Bob Ambrogi: Katie, since you’re the professor on the panel, maybe we can start with you and ask if you could just lay out for us what has happened in North Carolina that’s given rise to all of this controversy.
Katie Eyer: Sure, I’d be happy to talk a little bit about that. So this all started of course with a local ordinance in Charlotte, North Carolina. The local ordinance in Charlotte had actually existed for many years protecting a variety of groups against discrimination and public accomodations and a number of other domains. What happened in February of this year was that it was amended to include protections for the LGBT community and that happened in February of this year. And within a month, the state legislature in North Carolina had called a special session to essentially overturn this ordinance but actually went much, much farther in the law that they ultimately enacted. So within a month, they had enacted a law that not only made clear that localities can not afford protections of these kinds to LGBT individuals but that as alluded to in the introduction to the show quite explicitly addressed this issue of who can use what restroom and made it clear that that’s going to be dependant on what sex is indicated on the birth certificate which for many transgender people means that they would not be able to use a gender identity appropriate restroom. It actually also addressed a whole sort of grab bag of other issues as well, making clear that local living wage laws and the like would not be allowed any longer as well as withdrawing existing claims that could be brought under state antidiscrimination law for all protective classes prior to this time. So that was what went through in March and that’s the law that we’re talking about today.
Bob Ambrogi: Ilona Turner, this is being characterized as a civil rights issues and I’ve seen people analogizing to the bathroom laws that were common in the Jim Crow era. What makes this – assuming you agree with the proposition that this is a civil rights issue – what makes this a civil rights issue?
Ilona Turner: For one thing, as Katie was mentioning, the state legislature here acted to overturn the Charlotte non discrimination measure that they had enacted. So that’s explicitly civil rights protections that were being rolled back. But more broadly, it’s clear that transgender people and lesbian, gay and bisexual people are the subjects of a lot of stereotyping, bias and discrimination similar to other groups throughout history that have been minority groups that have been unpopular in terms of the majority in that place and time. And I think this is part of why, for instance, the NAACP in North Carolina has been out there on the forefront calling for the repeal of this law. In fact, they’re talking about doing a sit in at the state legislature if the bill is not repealed. A number of courts now have made the connection – the analogy – to restroom segregation rules and laws in the 1960’s and earlier. This really is about people feeling uncomfortable with somebody who may be different from them in the restroom. And that’s just not something that our laws can give credence to.
- Craig Williams: And Andrew, what does the Massachusetts Family Institute take on this position?
Andrew Beckwith: Our concern has been for years – this has been sort of in play in Massachusetts for a while now – really about the privacy rights and safety of particularly women and children. And our position is that biology matters and anatomy matters and we have in Massachusetts – as I’m sure in most states – laws that specifically exempt bathrooms, locker rooms, facilities like that from sex discrimination or sex non dsicrimination laws. Because the law recognizes that biology does matter in these intimate places. So where there’s not a rational basis to exclude someone from a restroom on the basis of their skin color, because skin color and race has no immoral or impractical consequence. But this is the stakes because we’re talking about anatomy and biology which do have consequences. So there is a rational basis to say that biological males use the men’s room, biological females use the women’s room. And you have very real and concrete privacy rights of – for example, women – who have a right to not have to change in front of a biological male regardless of how the biological male identifies. And we have seen incidents throughout the country, a couple recently in Washington state, where you have biological males who utilize the bathroom laws and gender identity laws in place in that state to undress in women’s locker rooms. Both cases in front of underage girls. So that’s obviously a concern. So we believe this is not a civil rights issue. I have a young Asian American attorney on my staff and he very much takes issue with the comparison to the Jim Crow segregation type arguments because this is a very different type of issue. And ultimately, we’re concerned about privacy and safety.
- Craig Williams: Andrew, does your opinion change if there has been a biological change in the former man that is now a woman or the former woman that is now a man?
Andrew Beckwith: That’s the track that they took in the North Carolina law was that a person to use the women’s room has to think about what’s on the birth certificate and the birth certificate is contingent upon having full transition surgery if they were born as a male and had male genitalia. We haven’t had to cross that bridge yet here in Massachusetts. I know we have a different scenario because I think the birth certificate in Massachusetts can be changed without surgery. So if we got to that point where somebody’s had a full transition, that probably makes the most sense for them to make the bathroom that stays consistent with their anatomy.
- Craig Williams: Katie, would a third restroom or third facility solve this issue if we have a neutral male and female?
Katie Eyer: I come from a background of employment discrimination in that context sometimes provided by employers on how to deal with these issues. And certainly having a gender neutral restroom is a good alternative for lots of reasons. Both for gender individuals who may desire to use it, but also for those who may be uncomfortable with using a restroom with another person for any reason. For families who may need access to a gender neutral restroom. But I would say it certainly doesn’t solve the problem all together because it singles out and stigmatizes transgender individuals for them not to be able to use a restroom inconsistent with their gender identity. Often even if there is a gender neutral restroom in the workplace, it may not be conveniently located. It may be sometimes even in a different building and there’s lots of reasons why it should not be the case that a transgender individual is compelled to use that kind of facility. Let me just say, Andrew mentioned the issues of privacy and safety. I think those who advocate for transgender equality are also very much concerned with those issues, but there are issues of privacy and safety for transgender people as well. And I think if you look at the broad history of this issue, this is an issue that is not new, it has been around for many, many years. It has consistently been shown that it is transgender people that experience violence and invasions of their privacy in these sex segregated contexts and not the case that they are the ones perpetrating victimization.
Bob Ambrogi: I understand that there are already laws on the books in some states prohibiting public facility discrimination. Do we have a track record from those states? Do we have any evidence? Has there been any studies of whether in fact harassment or lawyerism or any other such thing has been a problem in such states?
Ilona Turner: Yeah. There are around 19 states and the District of Columbia that have explicit non discrimination laws that protect transgender people from discrimination in the workplace, at schools. But there is absolutely no evidence or records of any incidents where a transgender harasses or assaults or anything like that another person in the restroom or locker room. It just doesn’t happen. It’s a fiction invented by the other side.
Andrew Beckwith: That is not true.
Ilona Turner: Okay, I’d be interested to see any examples out of that.
Andrew Beckwith: In 2010 here in Boston, there was a man who identified as female who went to a women’s shelter in the Boston area and went into the women’s bathroom. And despite the protestations by the biological women who were in the shelter – perhaps many of them victims of abuse at the hands of men – he refused to leave the bathroom and had to be escorted out by the police. Now he later sued and won the judgement from the City of Boston for about $20,000 because the City of Boston already has a municipal code that enforces a gender identity bathroom ordinance. But there you had probably some of the most vulnerable members of society, women in a homeless shelter, and they clearly felt unsafe and were disturbed by the presence of an anatomical male in a bathroom and he refused to leave. In 2012 in Washington state, we had a man who identified as a female lesbian who was in the sauna of a locker room at a local college where a high school girl swim team was practicing. So the high school girls, probably under the age of 18, are in the locker room and they clearly see an anatomical male naked in the sauna and they complained. And they were told he has a right to be there and that they shouldn’t be complaining. So that’s just two examples of something ahead where this creates real privacy concerns and modesty concerns for women and puts them in fear of their safety.
Bob Ambrogi: We’re going to return to this in just a second. We do need to take a short break at this point in the program so please stay with us and we will be right back after a word from our sponsors.
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Bob Ambrogi: Welcome back to Lawyer 2 Lawyer. This is Bob Ambrogi and we are speaking with our guests, Ilona Turner, legal director of the Transgender Law Center in Oakland, California, Andrew Beckwith, president of Massachusetts Family Institute, and Katie Eyer of Rutgers Law School. Andrew, you were just talking about instances where you feel that allowing transgender people into public facilities has caused instances. I want to ask you what your response is to the other side of that because I’ve also read instances where transgender individuals have been subjected to harassment using the facilities expected by their biology. That could give rise to uncomfortable situations in harassment as well. What should happen in those cases?
Andrew Beckwith: No one should be harassed when they’re using the bathroom or a locker room and everyone should have their privacy rights in tact. As one of the other guests mentioned, the idea of gender neutrals or single use bathrooms – sometimes they’ll have a family bathroom if you have to change your baby or something like that or if someone needs assistance. So quite often there’s a third option that allows everyone to have privacy because there’s really only room for one person in there. I think the common sense approach – and this was recommended if you read through the language of the North Carolina bill to make accommodation for people who have special circumstances. And I think looking at individuals who suffer from gender dysphoria – a relatively small percentage of the population, I think less than .3% – and the help is to make accommodation for people who have special concerns like that. And I think the very common sense one would be a gender neutral bathroom or single use bathroom that would really protect their privacy and everyone else in these circumstances.
Bob Ambrogi: What is the status of the north Carolina legislation at this point? I know that there has been talk of lawsuits being filed against it. I don’t know in fact whether there have been any yet.
Ilona Turner: I can respond to that. So there has been a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU challenging the North Carolina law on a number of grounds including under equal protection, due process, as well as under Title 9 which is federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education.
Bob Ambrogi: Here in Massachusetts we have a very different situation right now. I know that Andrew is based here in Massachusetts where there was a transgender rights bill already on the books which is I understand as that bill did not extend to public facility discriminations. So now there is a bill pending which would extend anti discrimination provisions to public facilities. Andrew, your organization has been active in speaking out against that here in Massachusetts. If that bill were to become law, would you see yourself as challenging that?
Andrew Beckwith: I would definitely take a look at that if that would be a viable way to challenge it. The courts here in Massachusetts in the first circuit might try a referendum as I think they are doing in Washington state as well to allow the people to vote. Because our belief is that the majority of the people in Massachusetts don’t want this bill. The majority of the legislature didn’t want to include public accommodations, specifically bathrooms and restrooms, which is why they actually took that out of the legislation that was passed in 2011 which initially had public accommodations and they removed that because of the concerns over bathrooms and locker rooms. And my understanding is that a sufficient number of the legislature here in Massachusetts still have a number of concerns over the privacy and safety rights of the individuals that would be impacted that the bill has been stuck in committee, and I hope it stays there.
Bob Ambrogi: Ilona, what is the impact on the transgender community of laws such as this? I saw an article, I think in the Washington post just today, talking about the psychological impact on people who identify as transgender of this kind of legislation. If you’ve seen that in your practice, what have you seen?
Ilona Turner: Absolutely. These kinds of laws clearly single out transgender people for different treatment, essentially declaring that they are kind of outside the law, not entitled to the same treatment as everybody else. It also, on a practical level, subjects them to daily scrutiny and violence when simply trying to use the restroom. And not just transgender people, but anybody who is perceived as gender non conforming. Any woman who has short hair or otherwise might look gender nonconforming in any way will know the experience of having been looked at funny in the women’s restroom or asked are you in the right restroom. And with laws like those going into effect, that will increase exponentially and creates an environment where everyone feels entitled to police everyone else’s gender. And that affects not just transgender people but all of us.
Bob Ambrogi: One of the issues that I find difficult to understand here is the biology, in a sense. And I’m certainly no expert in this but from what I’ve read, it seems to me that the biology is not just about what sex organs you’re born with. Biology seems to be something that’s far beyond that. So when we’re talking about what biological gender that somebody is born with, it seems to be a lot more complicated than just their sex organs and some people are born with sexual anatomy that doesn’t quite fit the definition of male or female. So how do these laws deal with this issue?
Ilona Turner: That’s a great question. The science is actually evolving quite a bit on this and a number of courts have addressed this as well around the decisions of transgender rights. In fact, sex and gender, these are not the cut and dried issue. It’s obvious if somebody is male or female, as we might have previously thought that it was. There are in fact a number of factors that make up sex including chromosomes and external genitalia and internal reproductive organs as well as a person’s gender identity, their understanding of themselves as male or female. And a number of folks in the scientific and medical community are coming to believe that it is gender identity that is the most critical of those factors. So a person’s gender identity really determines what their sex is in a fundamental way.
Bob Ambrogi: Andrew, what is your position on that? There are grey areas here I guess is what I’m saying. How do you feel these grey areas should be treated under the law?
Andrew Beckwith: The grey areas that we’re concerned about really are definitions of gender identity in the proposed legislation in Massachusetts as well as I think the law in Charlotte and it seems to be the same type of definitions throughout the country with these types of bills. The definitions of gender identity are extremely broad, don’t require any sort of medical or psychological diagnosis or treatment or hormonal therapies or surgeries. It’s all based on someone’s inner feelings. So it would be very hard to enforce and that’s why you see individuals who claim to be transfemale – if that’s the proper terminology – but they’re biological men going into women’s dressing rooms and exploiting these laws whether they’re just doing it as folks with gender identity issues or abusing them. It’s unclear because it’s hard to nail down what exactly someone’s gender identity is because it all boils down to what their internal feelings are. But what’s black and white is if you take a guy like Bruce Jenner – I know he calls himself Caitlyn now but as far as I understand he is still an intact male. If he walks into a locker room at the local Y where my wife and her daughter are changing, they’re going to be exposed to his male genitalia. Regardless of what he looks like on the cover of Vanity Fair or what he calls himself on his TV show, he is still an intact biological male with an XY chromosome. So that’s a problem for privacy and also potentially for safety for the vast majority of women and children. Now there may be some instances where people have genital deformities in their genitalia. And by all means, medical professionals should take whatever steps they can to correct it and mitigate it. But that’s not what these laws talk about. These laws talk about people’s internal feelings. And a millenia of social moors in order to accommodate what is an irradical and modern, new gender theory. And it puts the privacy at risk for millions of women and children.
Ilona Turner: I actually think Andrew makes a good point about that there are a variety of bodies, a great diversity of bodies even among men and among women. And we would never expect that it would be practical for the government to go around and inspecting what everybody’s bodies look like before they could use a restroom or locker room – or even to inspect someone’s birth certificate. That’s not something that they’re realistically going to do for everybody and it is by definition discriminatory just to single out people who might look gender nonconforming or people who are perceived as transgender for that kind of additional scrutiny or exclusion.
Bob Ambrogi: But he’s making a very specific point. This is the one we keep hearing in this debate of somebody with male genitalia going into a female locker room where there are women and possibly young women or girls in the locker room. What’s the response to that? Should that be appropriate and how should that be handled under the law?
Katie Eyer: Could i just add? I think what has largely been the focus of the conversation is something that we’ve heard for years and years and years whenever there are efforts to enact antidiscrimination protections for transgender people. But if you take a look at what the North Carolina legislature actually did here, it meant much, much, much farther than that specific concern. This is not a circumstance where we have the North Carolina legislature enacting antidiscrimination protection for transgender people but saying where there is unavoidable nudity we’re going to take some steps to ensure the privacy of everybody concerned. It’s simply – to my ears – impossible to take seriously that articulated concern when the individuals and the government entities that are putting it forward are unwilling to take any steps to ensure transgender equality more broadly and indeed are typically taking steps to entirely eradicate such laws. So again, to me this is really a red herring in the debate over transgender equality issues. It’s simply not doing the work that it is adjusted to do.
Bob Ambrogi: I agree 100% with you that this is a red herring and yet it seems that everywhere the debate comes up this is what it ends up focusing on. Again, even here in Massachusetts where the bill is not at all a bathroom bill I don’t think. It’s a public facilities bill but it is being defined that way.
Andrew Beckwith: It’s explicitly a bathroom bill because it specifically eliminates the exemption under existing Massachusetts law from sex discrimination statutes-
Bob Ambrogi: Public facilities, yeah.
Andrew Beckwith: Well yeah, bathrooms and restrooms. So it specially targets bathrooms and this issue is not a red herring to the homeless women who are uncomfortable with a man in their bathroom or to the high school girls who felt their privacy was violated by the biological man who was sitting in the sauna. So There are obviously an array of other areas where this type of legislation would impact the lives of individuals but this is where the rubber hits the road and we do have circumstances of where it’s caused real concern to real people. So to call it a red herring I think is disingenuous.
Katie Eyer: Well, let me ask you Andrew, would the Massachusetts Family Institute support the Massachusetts legislation if it carved out the circumstance of contact avoiding – where there’s for example locker rooms with unavoidable nudity – would they then support enacting gender identity inclusive statewide legislation?
Andrew Beckwith: I mean that’s what the status of the current law really is because you’ve got already education, hiring, housing and finance recovery. Public accommodations aren’t specifically covered, but under the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, it already claims of transgender discrimination in a case at a restaurant, another case at a hospital, so-
Katie Eyer: And so does the Massachusetts Family Institute support that?
Andrew Beckwith: We don’t believe anyone should be discriminated against. We have different understandings of whether gender identities as characteristic should be added to that list of protective categories in the same ways that race, sex and creed are. But our primary concern in this situation is one of privacy and safety. So if there was some way of addressing that, we’d be certainly taking a look at that. We believe that the bill in Massachusetts as it currently stands are existing in a lot of ways practice as unnecessary is redundant except for bathrooms. So the bill that would change fast are the bathrooms and the locker rooms.
Bob Ambrogi: Right now, Massachusetts law prohibits discrimination in employment and certain other characteristics but it’s still the case that a restaurant could prohibit a transgender person from eating there as a customer while they couldn’t prohibit them from working there as an employee. Isn’t that the case?
Andrew Beckwith: A restaurant can take those steps right now and whether the law is passed or not, they’re going to have to go to MCAD, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination with a claim.
Bob Ambrogi: Yeah, they might have a fight. But the law does not expressly protect them now under Massachusetts.
Andrew Beckwith: The functional state of the law right now is that those people are covered. There was a transgender man, a woman who was under testosterone treatments, had her breasts removed, wanted to be artificially inseminated by a hospital in Boston. That hospital said we’re not sure we have the expertise given what you’ve been through hormonally to do this, can we refer you to another hospital. They got sued under MCAD by that trans man, biological woman transitioning for discrimination and settled, and that’s a pretty extreme case. I think most people would say that the hospital was within their rights to professionally say we don’t think we’re qualified to handle this rather unique situation. We had a biological woman who was under years of testosterone treatments who then wanted to be artificially inseminated as a woman. But they got sued and caved to MCAD. And that’s without public accommodations law.
Bob Ambrogi: MCAD being the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. I’m afraid that we’re running very low on time, we’re actually over our time. I do want to give each of you an opportunity to give each of your closing thoughts before we wrap up. And as we do that I also invite you to let our listeners know how they can follow up with you and learn more about your work in this area. So, Ilona Turner, legal director of Transgender Law Center, why don’t we start with you?
Ilona Turner: Sure, thank you. I think the recent cases that Andrew is talking about really point to the really important and positive flipside to this recent negative attention for transgender people which is that there’s been huge strives recently both in public understanding and legal protection for transgender people under both state and federal laws across the country. With figures on TV coming out and more transgender people coming out to people in their own lives. This issue is becoming understandable. People are getting to understand what it means to be transgender and who transgender people are and that kind of fear that existed previously is really melting away. So that’s why we are confident that this understanding is just going to keep growing and hopefully soon, we won’t see these kinds of laws being introduced anymore.
Bob Ambrogi: Thanks. And what’s a good way for our listeners to learn more about the work you’re doing?
Ilona Turner: Sure. They can just go to our website, TransgenderLawCenter.org.
Bob Ambrogi: Alright, thank you. And Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, your closing thoughts?
Andrew Beckwith: Sure. We believe everyone that has the right to privacy, particularly in intimate spaces and the right to feel safe when they’re changing at the Y or in the locker room at the college or school. These bathroom built type laws have a very broad definition of gender identity that has been shown time and time again already in places where they’ve been enacted. They’re very easy to exploit by those who would exploit them to gain access – particularly to women and children in intimate settings – and that unfortunately creates a zero sum game of privacy rights where we take one of the individuals, in this case folks who suffer from gender dysphoria, and sue their right to privacy and comfort trumps everyone else. It’s really an unfortunate circumstance but it’s really a zero sum game of privacy rights. I think the best way to handle this is to accommodate those people with special circumstances with gender identity issues and probably single use facilities which is what’s laid out under the North Carolina law which is a common sense solution to this growing problem.
Bob Ambrogi: Thank you. And what’s a good way for our listeners to follow up with you?
Andrew Beckwith: Sure, you can reach us at our website, MAFamily.org.
Bob Ambrogi: Thank you very much.Katie Eyer, Rutgers Law School, you get the final word today.
Katie Eyer: Thank you. So I would conclude just by noting the laws that we’ve been talking about here today, laws like the recently enacted law in North Carolina, similar laws enacted around the country in places like Mississippi, they are laws that are both legally and practically speaking deeply problematic from the perspective of transgender rights – specifically in LGBT rights more generally. I will also say, however, that I hope listeners do not lose track of ensuring that the baseline measure of all LGBT individuals has a clear and comprehensive antidiscrimination protection quite aside from these issues of restroom access and locker room access that we have been talking about here on the show. As Ilona has alluded to in her closing remarks, there have been any number of positive developments both legislative and in the case law in providing protections. But it is still the case that rampant discrimination is faced by many transgender people in this country. That’s something that I think there’s a growing understanding that it is deeply problematic from a moral perspective to have in our society. And I can be reached at my Rutgers Law website or via email or my telephone number on that website.
Bob Ambrogi: Thank you very much to all of you for taking the time to be with us today. This was a really interesting discussion, we really appreciate your time and thoughts on this.
That brings us to the end of this show.. This is Bob Ambrogi on behalf of Craig Williams here on the Legal Talk Network. Thanks for listening and please join us next time for another great topic. When you want legal, think Lawyer 2 Lawyer.
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