You’ve undoubtedly heard about House Bill 2: NC’s new law that, in theory, protects the sanctity of bathrooms. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone — in any state — who hasn’t heard of this overreaching legislation, which requires people to use the bathroom that matches the sex on their birth certificate.
A lot of people are rightfully annoyed by the codification of prejudice against trans* citizens contained in this bill. But what fewer people know is that it has some pretty weighty repercussions for cis-gendered North Carolinians. Here are five, in no particular order:
- Parents can’t enter the restroom their opposite-sex kids are using. My boys are old enough to go into public bathrooms themselves. Every once in awhile I have to stick my head in to make sure no hijinx are afoot. This new law removes any protections I might have as a parent who needs to ensure her sons aren’t stopping up the urinals with paper towels. (Does it sounds like I speak from experience? I speak from experience.)
- Towns and cities can’t pass their own laws preventing employment discrimination. Not only are restrooms legislated, other protections are as well. In my hometown of Chapel Hill, priority contracts are given by the town to minority-owned businesses. Under the new law, towns cannot place any regulations upon their contractors, including requiring them to pay fair wages.
- Businesses cannot declare their multi-occupancy bathrooms to be non-gendered. Even though lawmakers say they want to put power into the hands of businesses, this rule takes that away. All multi-occupancy bathrooms must be single sex. One of my favorite watering holes, the Pinhook in Durham, has a bathroom with stalls for people of all genders to use. They are now in violation of the law.
- North Carolina could lose a boatload of money. The Human Rights Commission says the new law is in violation of a federal law, Title IX, which prohibits discrimination. This puts $4.5 billion of federal funding at risk. Beyond that, NC stands to lose tourism dollars as the NCAA pulls out championship games, large companies such as Paypal and American Airlines reconsider locating offices here, and progressive-minded folks shy away from what is perceived as a prejudicial state. Even more, there’s no way this law isn’t getting challenged in court, which is going to cost a huge amount of money for North Carolina. The legislature has put aside $8 million to deal with lawsuits — including those regarding voting rights and gay marriage. Imagine what our state could do with that money if it wasn’t engaging in costly political theater.
- People will have to use the restroom next to people who appear not to belong there. Guys with beards, who just happen to have been born with ovaries, will be washing hands next to our daughters and sisters. Women with breasts, makeup, and fully coiffed hair — but also an XY chromosome — will be walking past urinals to hopefully grab a stall in the men’s room. Is this really the right course? Who’s going to be safer or more comfortable?
Groups are mobilizing to challenge this bill, in court and through social action. But you can make a difference at home, too. Tell your friends about this law, and explain why it affects them. Call your legislator, and the Governor’s office to let them know this law doesn’t represent your interests. And always vote. Local elections, state elections, even ones for small offices. Your vote is the one that makes a difference, every time.