Bathroom Policies – The Debate and Economic Impact

Will 2016 be noted as the year of the Bathroom Debate?  While it’s not clear how this issue will be resolved, there’s a good chance that most Americans are going to be personally confronted with this issue – and soon.

What started as a movement by those is the transgendered community to be able to choose the bathroom of their choice has suddenly become a hot button topic in many communities.  Those who have not had to engage in the bathroom debate need only look to North Carolina to see how its HB2 Bathroom Law has caused significant controversy.

North Carolina recently adopted legislation that may aptly be described as the “go as you were born” approach.  Kaitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner would be expected to use the men’s bathroom, despite his physical appearance and assertions of identifying as a woman.  The North Carolina bathroom law requires compliance by cities, counties, schools and universities, but lacks any type of enforcement mechanism or attached penalties.

Why Can’t We Choose Which Bathroom to Use?

Proponents of North Carolina’s bill claim that the bill actually protects citizens, particularly young girls.  What would happen, they assert, if everyone could choose which bathroom (and presumably locker room) they wanted to use?  Would this open up the possibility that our young daughters would be harmed by pedophiles, who could choose to use the women’s bathrooms solely for such sick purposes (and not because they self-identified as being female)?  Would teenage girls and women want to find themselves in showers or having to dress in a common area with Kaitlynn Jenner (who would anatomically still be Bruce Jenner)?

Undoubtedly there are some difficult decisions that need to be addressed.  What we believe is the wrong course of action is that taken by the North Carolina legislature – hard and fast rules that fail to take into account a significant population with legitimate concerns.

The NCAA and Leading Businesses are Fighting Back

Fortunately, leading businesses and organizations – including the NCAA – are taking a stand against states that are not addressing the concerns and needs of those in the LGBTQ community.  The NCAA, for example announced this week that it is relocating all seven previously awarded championships during for the 2016-2017 academic year from North Carolina specifically because of the adoption of its HB2 Bathroom Law.  In making its decision, the NCAA noted that:

  • North Carolina laws invalidate any local law that treats sexual orientation as a protected class or has a purpose to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.
  • North Carolina has the only statewide law that makes it unlawful to use a restroom different from the gender on one’s birth certificate, regardless of gender identity.
  • North Carolina law provides legal protections for government officials to refuse services to the LGBT community.
  • Five states plus numerous cities prohibit travel to North Carolina for public employees and representatives of public institutions, which could include student-athletes and campus athletics staff. These states are New York, Minnesota, Washington, Vermont and Connecticut.

These championships, along with conference cancellations and perhaps decisions by corporations not to move to their headquarters to North Carolina will undoubtedly cost North Carolina tens of millions of dollars.

It’s Time for an Open Discussion that will Address the Views of All Constituencies

Enacting laws like North Carolina’s HB2 law certainly do not address the concerns of those in the LGBTQ community, and instead serve as an effort, in our view, to turn back the clock.

Instead of these laws, we believe that an effective conversation that includes the needs and concerns of everyone will be productive in coming up with comprehensive solutions.