Bathroom bill

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A bathroom bill is the common name for legislation or a statute that defines access to public facilities—specifically restrooms—by transgender individuals. Bathroom bills affect access to sex-segregated public facilities for an individual based on a determination of their sex as defined in some specific way—such as their sex as assigned at birth, their sex as listed on their birth certificate, or the sex that corresponds to their gender identity.[1] A bathroom bill can either be inclusive or exclusive of transgender individuals, depending on the aforementioned definition of their sex.

Critics of bills which exclude transgender individuals from restrooms which conform to their gender identity argue that they do not make public restrooms any safer for cisgender (non-transgender) people, and that they make public restrooms less safe for both transgender people and gender non-conforming cisgender people.[2][3][4] Additionally, critics claim there have been no cases of a transgender person attacking a cisgender person in a public restroom,[2] although there has been at least one isolated incident of voyeurism in a fitting room.[5] By comparison, a much larger percentage of transgender people have been verbally, physically, and sexually harassed or attacked by cisgender people in public facilities.[6] For these reasons the controversy over transgender bathroom access has been labeled a moral panic[7] and compared to the antisemitic blood libel.[8]

Proponents say such legislation is necessary to maintain privacy, protect what they claim to be an innate sense of modesty held by most cisgender people, prevent voyeurism, assault, molestation, and rape,[9] and retain psychological comfort.[10][11]

One bathroom bill, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act in North Carolina, was approved as a law in 2016, although portions of the measure were later repealed in 2017 as part of a compromise between the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature.

Also in 2016, guidance was issued by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education stating that schools which receive federal money must treat a student’s gender identity as their sex (for example, in regard to bathrooms).[12] However, this policy was revoked in 2017.[12]


In Canada, the New Democratic Party (NDP) has introduced several bills that tried to include gender identity and gender expression among the characteristics protected from discrimination and eligible to be considered in sentencing crimes motivated by hate.[13] These bills were frequently referred to as "bathroom bills" by their critics as they would have allowed transgender individuals to use the public facilities corresponding to their gender identity.

In 2009, NDP MP Bill Siksay introduced Bill C-389 to the 40th Parliament.[14] The bill was passed by the House of Commons in 2011 but was defeated by the Senate.[15]

Bill C-279, introduced to the 41st Parliament in 2011 by NDP MP Randall Garrison, was passed and sent to the Senate in March 2013.[16] In 2015, Senator Don Plett introduced three amendments to the bill, one of which exempted public washrooms and changerooms from the bill's protections.[17] The bill was also ultimately defeated in the Senate.

Garrison re-introduced the bill to the 42nd Parliament as Bill C-204.[18]

Bill C-16, a similar bill to the NDP bills, was intruded on May 17, 2016 by Federal Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould to the 42nd Parliament. The bill passed the legislative process in the House of Commons and the Senate, and became law upon receiving Royal Assent on June 19, 2017, coming into force immediately.[19][20][21]

United States

In a landmark 2013 case, the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled in favor of 6-year-old transgender student Coy Mathis to use the girls' bathroom at her elementary school. It was the first ruling of its kind in the United States and one of the first high-profile transgender rights cases, garnering huge amounts of media attention.[22]

In March 2016, the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Education released a joint guidance on the application of Title IX protections to transgender students.[23] The guidance stated that for the purpose of Title IX, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education treat a student's gender identity as their sex. The guidance was followed by a formal "Dear Colleague" letter on May 13.[24]

In October 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender male student who was barred from using the boys' bathrooms at his high school in Gloucester County, Virginia.[25] The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit had previously ruled that Grimm could use these restrooms, but the Supreme Court stayed that decision in August.[26]

Public opinion regarding transgender bathroom rights in the U.S. is mixed. A Pew Research poll from October 2016 found that about half of U.S. adults (51%) stated transgender individuals should be "allowed to use public restrooms that correspond with the gender they currently identify with", with nearly as many (46%) taking the opposite position—and say "transgender people should be required to use bathrooms that match the gender they were born into". Younger people aged 18–29 were more likely to support transgender people's right to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with (67%).[27] A more recent YouGov poll from March 2017 found that 40% of Americans supported "a law that would require transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender of their birth" with exactly the same percentage (40%) opposing such a law.[28]


A bathroom bill was introduced in Alabama on February 7, 2017 by state Senator Phil Williams.[29] The bill, if passed, would require attendants to be present in mixed-gender public bathrooms to ensure that no crimes are committed there.[30]


A bathroom bill was introduced in Arizona, but it failed to pass after it was withdrawn by its sponsor, John Kavanagh, in 2013.[31][32]


In September 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bathroom bill that mandates single-occupancy public bathrooms be gender-neutral in order to enable easier access for transgender people. The law went into effect on March 1, 2017.[33][34][35]


A bathroom bill was introduced in Florida in the spring of 2015 as HB583 by Representative Frank Artiles.[36][37] Proponents claimed, in the language of the bill, that it was designed to prevent "assault, battery, molestation, rape, voyeurism, and exhibitionism".[9] Opponents claimed that the only purpose was to be "discriminatory", and that it would "criminalize [transgender people] for simply going about their daily lives".[38] The bill went through two House committees, but did not pass.[39] There were no further bathroom bills filed in the Florida state legislature in 2015 or 2016, but organizations like Equality Florida said in 2017 that they were preparing for the possibility of future bills.[37]


On February 27, 2015, a bathroom bill was passed in the Kentucky Senate, the bill did not pass the Kentucky House.[40][36]


A bathroom bill was introduced in Minnesota in 2016.[36][41]


Two bathroom bills were introduced in Missouri in 2017.[42]


On March 19, 2015, Victoria Dooling, a Nevada state representative, proposed a bathroom bill that would apply to public schoolchildren in the state.[43] It later died in committee.[44]

North Carolina

On March 23, 2016, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R) signed into law the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act (commonly known as House Bill 2). The law states that in government buildings, individuals (such as students at state-operated schools) may only use restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to the sex identified on their birth certificates. Transgender persons born in North Carolina can obtain modified birth certificates on which their sex is different than what was originally identified at the time of their birth, but only if they have undergone sex reassignment surgery.[45] For those born in other places, the ability to change the sex listed on a birth certificate is governed by their place of birth (which may have substantially different requirements, and in some cases may not allow such changes).[45]

The bill also overturns an LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance that had been passed by Charlotte, North Carolina, prevents local governments in the state from enacting similar ordinances, and prevents cities from raising their minimum wages higher than that of the state.[46]

On August 26, 2016, a U.S. District Court judge granted a preliminary injunction, preventing the University of North Carolina from enforcing the restroom provisions of the bill.[47]

On March 30, 2017, the legislature partially repealed House Bill 2, removing the restrictions on restroom use by transgender individuals. The compromise agreement was criticized by both LGBT rights groups and conservatives.[48]

South Carolina

In April 2016, Sen. Lee Bright brought a bill (S. 1203) to the South Carolina Senate, that was essentially the same as North Carolina's HB2. [49] The bill would block local governments from passing anti-discriminatory ordinances such as: the use of public bathrooms by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals.[49] Senator Bright's bill would maintain that public bathrooms be used in accordance to "biological sex." [49] An online poll taken from a news site stated that 75% of voters did not think the bill was necessary.[49] The legislation failed to meet the crossover deadline for bills to pass from one legislative chamber to the other. [50]

In December 2016, a similar bill was introduced by Rep. Steven Wayne Long in the South Carolina house. (H. 3012)[51]

South Dakota

On February 16, 2016, the South Dakota Senate voted 20-15 to approve a bathroom bill that, had it passed, would have been the first in the country to require public schoolchildren to use facilities that match the sex they were assigned at birth.[52] On March 1, 2016, the governor of South Dakota, Dennis Daugaard, vetoed the bill.[53] Early in the 2017 legislative session Republican Sen. Lance Russell refiled the bathroom bill but on January 30 he withdrew the bill because of GOP Gov. Dennis Daugaard again promised a veto.[54]


On April 6, 2016, the Tennessee House Education Administration and Planning Committee, which is part of the Tennessee House of Representatives, approved a bathroom bill that would apply to public schools and colleges in the state and would require students to use a restroom that corresponds with their sex as identified at birth.[1][55] Before the bill could proceed further, the house sponsor of the bill decided to delay its consideration for a year to allow for further investigation, citing concerns that it could interfere with Title IX funding.[55] In 2017, the bill was re-introduced, but died in the Senate Education Committee.[56]


Several bills were filed in both the regular legislative session and first special session of the Texas Legislature in 2017. Championed by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, the Texas Senate passed SB6 in the regular session and SB3 in the Special Session by a vote of 21-10 largely along party lines (Senator Lucio was the only Democrat to vote in favor of each bill). SB6 limited bathroom access based on the sex listed on one's birth certificate while SB3 would allow an individual to use the restroom listed on several state ID's as well (ex. driver's license, concealed carry license).[57] [58]

Although SB6 received a hearing in the State Affairs committee in the Texas House, neither SB6 or SB3 made it to the House floor, so a vote never took place in either bill's case. The speaker of the Texas House, Joe Straus, voiced his opposition to the bills citing the economic impact that North Carolina saw while HB2 was law. Furthermore, he was also quoted by a New Yorker article saying, "I'm disgusted by all this. Tell the lieutenant governor I don't want the suicide of a single Texan on my hands."[59]


In 2016, Del. Mark Cole sponsored House Bill 663, a bathroom bill restricting public restroom use according to a person's "anatomical sex", defined as "the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person's anatomy", with violators liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $50. HB663 was introduced on January 11, 2016 and died in committee in February 2016.[60] It was widely reported that HB663 would require adults to inspect the genitals of children before they were allowed to enter the appropriate facilities, but this was dismissed by Snopes as a misleading interpretation of the bill's text,[61] which states that administrators "shall develop and implement policies that require every restroom ... that is designated for use by a specific gender to solely be used by individuals whose anatomical sex matches such gender designation."[60] Cole sponsored House Bill 781 one day later on January 12, 2016, which used the same wording but substituted "biological sex" for "anatomical sex". The use of "biological sex" allowed for an update via amended birth certificate. HB781 also died in committee in February.[62]

In early 2017, HB1612, proposed by Republican Bob Marshall would bar users to use the restroom, changing facility or private area of their non born sex in government buildings.[63] In HB1612, it also stated that individuals that did not use the bathroom of their born sex would be subject to civil action. Additionally, HB1612 required school principals to inform the parents of a child if the child did not wish to identify as their born sex. The bill was killed in subcommittee on January 19, 2017.[64]


In early 2015, SB 6548, which would prevent transgender individuals from using the bathroom associated with the gender with which they identify was introduced in the senate but failed to pass.[65] In December 2015, Washington State's Human Rights Commission enacted a rule that allowed transgender individuals to use bathrooms conforming with their gender identities. Early in 2016, a bill to overturn the ruling (SB 6443) was voted on in the state Senate, and defeated by a margin of 25-24.[66] An attempt to put a state voter initiative on the November 2016 ballot, I-1515, failed to reach the number of signatures necessary to appear on the ballot.[67] On December 5, 2016, a new bill, HB 1011 was pre-filed in the Washington State House. This bill would prevent transgender individuals from using a bathroom of their gender identity unless they have had sex-reassignment surgery, and would prevent local municipalities from enacting ordinances contradicting the directive.[68]


In November 2015, Wisconsin held a hearing on a bathroom bill to require public schoolchildren to use facilities that match the sex they were assigned at birth. According to critics, the bill would also violate the federal government's Office for Civil Rights's 2014 statement that federal nondiscrimination law covered gender identity. The following month, the bill was revised to allow public schools to offer gender-neutral bathrooms.[69][70]


Critics of bathroom bills have argued that they place transgender people in danger without making cisgender people any safer and that they even make things more dangerous for gender non-conforming cisgender people.[2][3] The UCLA's Williams Institute has tracked prevalence of crimes in bathrooms since the passage of various protections for the transgender population and has found that there has been no significant change in the number of crimes.[22] Marcie Bianco, writing for Mic, pointed out that there is not a single documented case of a transgender person attacking a cisgender person in a public restroom.[2] Writing for Patheos, Terry Firma argued that there have been more Republican politicians arrested for sex acts in bathrooms than transgender people.[4] The controversy has been labeled a moral panic,[7] and Dan Savage went so far as to call it an "anti-trans blood libel".[8]

According to the largest U.S. survey of transgender people ever undertaken, carried out by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) in 2015 with 27,715 respondents, one percent of respondents reported being sexually assaulted in a public restroom for being transgender. Twelve percent reported being verbally harassed in a public restroom, and another one percent reported being non-sexually physically assaulted for being transgender. Nine percent reported being denied the right to use a public restroom consistent with their gender.[6] The NCTE acknowledges that in its report that this survey was undertaken before any bathroom bills had been passed or were in the news.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b Lopez, German (April 7, 2016). "Tennessee's anti-transgender bathroom bill, explained". Vox. Retrieved April 7, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d Bianco, Marcie (April 2, 2016). "Statistics Show Exactly How Many Times Trans People Have Attacked You in Bathrooms". 
  3. ^ a b King-Miller, Linday (April 12, 2016). "Stop Using Women's Safety to Justify Transphobia". 
  4. ^ a b Firma, Terry (April 11, 2016). "More Republican Politicians Than Trans People Have Been Arrested For Sex Acts in Bathrooms". 
  5. ^ Chokshi, Miraj (14 July 2014). "Transgender Woman is Charged With Voyeurism at Target in Idaho". NYT. New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c "2015 U.S. Transgender Survey : Executive Summary" (PDF). U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington: National Center for Transgender Equality. .
  7. ^ a b Wheeling, Kate (August 4, 2017). "Stalled Out: How Social Bias is Segregating America's Bathrooms". 
  8. ^ a b Savage, Dan (February 9, 2015). "Florida Representative Wants to Throw Trans People in Prison for Using Public Toilets". The Stranger. 
  9. ^ a b Kasperkevic, Jana (17 March 2015). "Florida anti-transgender bathroom bill moves a step closer to passing". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Ltd. Retrieved 11 July 2017. 
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