America’s culture war has entered the most private of public spaces. Enactment of North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill—House Bill 2 (HB2), aka the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act—corresponded to a rash of similar proposals across the U.S.
The controversy is tangled in the history of federal anti-discrimination laws, Title IX, and local city ordinances. Supporters of gender-restrictive bathroom mandates have cited defense of women (especially girls in school locker rooms) as justification. Opponents of HB2 (and similar proposals) see a government-sanctioned affront to those who do not identify with their gender assigned at birth; they argue that transgender individuals have a right to use the restroom most closely aligned with their gender identity.
Omaha Public Schools told Omaha Magazine that the local school district remains determined to keep their schools safe for all students, including students of different genders. “Although this has come up on a national level, it certainly is not new to our schools. Our district has been responsive to our students for many years,” says Sharif Liwaru, director of OPS Office of Equity and Diversity.
1964: The federal Civil Rights Act is implemented to stop workplace discrimination based on sex, religion, race, color, or national origin.
1972: Title IX—part of the U.S. Education Amendment of 1972—extends federal anti-discrimination requirements to public education and federally assisted programs
October 2010: Omaha fails to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to a list of protected classes.
March 13, 2012: Omaha City Council approves (by vote of 4-3) a controversial ordinance introduced by Councilman Ben Gray that makes it illegal to discriminate in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
April 29, 2014: The U.S. Department of Education publishes a 53-page guidance for complying to Title IX. The document states: “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity” and “the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the parties does not change a school’s obligations.”
November 3, 2015: Charlotte elects a new mayor, Jennifer Roberts, who supports LGBTQ-inclusive changes to local anti-discrimination ordinances.
Feb. 22: Charlotte City Council adds LGBTQ protections to the city’s non-discrimination ordinance.
Feb. 23: North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore calls for legislative action in response to the “bathroom piece” of Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance.
March 23: The North Carolina General Assembly passes HB2 (“the bathroom bill”). Gov. Pat McCrory signs the bill into law. HB2 restricts usage of public restroom facilities to people based on the gender listed on their birth certificates and prevents local anti-discrimination ordinances from protecting individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
March 28: The ACLU files a federal lawsuit to overturn HB2 because of its unconstitutionality (failure to uphold the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment) and its violation of Title IX.
April 8: Bruce Springsteen cancels his concert in Greensboro, North Carolina. Springsteen’s protest against HB2 is mirrored in several other entertainers canceling North Carolina events to protest HB2.
April 12: Responding to criticism of HB2, Gov. McCrory signs an executive order preventing state employees from being disciplined or fired for being gay or transgender.
April 19: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which also presides over North Carolina, rules in favor of Virginia high school student Gavin Grimm. The transgender student—who was born female—sued the Gloucester County School Board for violating his Title IX right to use the boys’ bathroom facilities.
April 21: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says North Carolina must change HB2 for the league to hold its 2017 all-star game in Charlotte as scheduled.
April 27: NCAA Board of Governors adopts a new anti-discrimination process for all sites hosting, or bidding to host, NCAA events in order to “provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination.”
May 9: Gov. McCrory files a lawsuit asking federal courts to declare that HB2 is not discriminatory.
May 9: U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announces that the Department of Justice is filing a civil rights complaint against North Carolina because of anti-LGBTQ language in HB2.
May 13: The Obama Administration and U.S. Department of Education issue guidelines insisting that public schools allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their gender identity.
May 15: Delegates to the Nebraska Republican Convention adopt a resolution calling for a Nebraska bathroom law akin to North Carolina’s HB2.
May 17: Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson objects to the Obama Administration’s (May 13) bathroom guidelines. In his letter, Peterson promises that his office will do “everything in its power to resist any attempt to unconstitutionally expand Title IX requirements.”
May 18: More than 200 corporations sign an open letter condemning HB2. North Carolina loses 400 potential future jobs when one signatory, Paypal, withdraws its plans to open a new global operations center in Charlotte.
*Update after press deadline
June 21: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools revised its policy to protect transgender students in the classroom and comply with Title IX, in defiance of the state law, HB2.
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Facts and Figures of Marginalization
RISK FOR SUICIDE
Trans people suffer from an elevated risk of bullying, homelessness, and attempted suicide. According to a 2014 report by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute, 41 percent of trans people have tried to kill themselves at some point in their lives—compared to 4.6 percent of the total adult U.S. population.
SEX OR GENDER?
According to the World Health Organization, “Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.”
Most newborns receive gender assignments at birth. But not all. Newborns with ambiguous genitalia are deemed “intersex.” Sometimes intersex conditions do not become apparent until later in life, often around the time of puberty. According to the American Psychological Association, “experts estimate that as many as 1 in every 1,500 babies is born with genitals that cannot easily be classified as male or female.”
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To read more about the spectrum of gender identity in Omaha, see the current issue of Omaha Magazine: https://omahamagazine.com/2016/06/engendering-identity/. The author of the article, Dr. Jay Irwin, was profiled in the January/February issue of Omaha Magazine: https://omahamagazine.com/2016/