In North Carolina, we don’t hide our eccentricities. Sometimes, we elect them to office. But even we were shocked in March when state lawmakers convened a special session at a cost of $42,000 to discriminate against the entire LGBTQ community.
At issue was a local ordinance passed by the city of Charlotte that allowed transgender persons to use the public bathroom of the gender with which they identify. It only affected people living and visiting Charlotte.
In response, state leaders quickly passed a new law that overturned the Charlotte ordinance, banned other local governments from approving a similar ordinance, and excluded sexual orientation from the list of legally protected categories in the state’s nondiscrimination laws.
The response to House Bill 2, which became known as the “Bathroom Bill” or “HB 2,” was nuclear.
The state and federal governments sued and countersued in federal court over whether demanding transgender persons to go to the public restroom of the gender assigned at birth is discriminatory.
The federal government threatened to withhold more than $2 billion for roads and schools in North Carolina, citing nondiscrimination clauses in federal law. Then the Obama Administration backed off slightly, saying it wouldn’t exactly withhold money, but it could.
Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam have canceled scheduled concerts here. PayPal and Deutsche Bank backed out of deals that would have brought 400 and 200 new jobs to the state, respectively. More than 200 major companies such as American Airlines, Apple and Pepsi have issued statements opposing HB 2 and/or calling for its repeal.
The cities of New York, Baltimore, San Francisco, Seattle and Philadelphia have forbidden its employees to travel on the public’s dime to North Carolina. Even some furniture buyers boycotted in April the annual High Point Furniture Market, which is like New York Fashion Week for furniture, in protest.
When the response hit the fan, those of us who oppose HB 2 were delighted that Bruce Springsteen and PayPal took a stand against discrimination. Seemingly, they stood in solidarity with the diverse coalition encompassing all races, creeds, orientations and genders that have organically sprung up in North Carolina to oppose the law.
But now that North Carolina has become labeled a bigoted, backward place, we’re a bit over the boycotts and the snatching away of jobs that punish the wrong people.
Here is what the people of North Carolina — those of us who want people to be happy and free and use whatever restroom they like — want to tell you about the “Bathroom Bill” and what you can do to support our state’s LGBTQ community.
Boycotts are used as a political strategy to apply economic and social pressure on elected leaders in order to compel them to change or enact a policy. However, in North Carolina, our legislative and congressional districts are so gerrymandered that until the next U.S. Census in 2020 or unless an armed revolution happens, the same people who passed House Bill 2 will continue to be elected to office. If you choose not to perform or come to North Carolina, you’re only hurting the people who love your work and want to support you.
Spend a week or two in North Carolina and help us work toward change. We have many local organizations that are focused on empowering the LGBTQ community. Equality NC has been on the forefront of securing equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer individuals and in opposition to HB 2. The LGBT Center of Raleigh has reported a significant increase in call volume since the passage of the bill. Time Out Youth in Charlotte “offers support, advocacy, and opportunities for personal development and social interaction” for LGBTQ youth. They have even published an Activism Guide to help youth learn about their rights and raise awareness.
All of these organizations could use your help organizing fundraisers, working their phone banks or canvassing. When the hard volunteer day is done, go explore North Carolina. Visit businesses and communities that promote inclusion, but don’t ignore opportunities to have conversations about why you are visiting and what you believe.
There are several festivals and events that empower the LGBTQ community in fun and uniquely North Carolina ways. They include: The Beaver Queen Festival in Durham put on by Beaver Lodge Local 1504, Gay Raleigh, The Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus (their next performance is June 4th) and we also have monthly drag brunches sponsored by the Crape Myrtle Festival in Raleigh.
When you are exhausted from partying with Beave Queen 2016 or moved to tears from listening to the TGMC’s rendition of ‘The Rose,’ stay at a hotel or bed-and-breakfast with an inclusion policy. Purple Roofs and NC Gay Travel provide a database and listings, respectively, of LGBTQ-friendly inns, hotels, travel agents, tour operators and real estate across North Carolina.
Come to North Carolina, sit on the porch and have a sweet tea or a glass of local Muscadine wine with us. We would love to explain the difference between eastern and western-style barbecue. We’re proud of our hockey and basketball teams. We have lovely wineries and craft breweries. We’re a state of beaches and mountains. Asheville, Durham and Charlotte are all progressive towns. We’re a good state with caring people, and we don’t intend to stop making progress.
So have compassion for those of us in the trenches. It’s easy to oppose discrimination when you live in progressive enclaves like New York, San Francisco or London. However, it’s a lot harder to stand-up and be counted as “different” when you come from rural, conservative communities. Those North Carolina communities are the front lines of this battle. As my friend, Canaan said, “Battles are won in the trenches and this is where the trenches are for now.”
“Lots of problems can be worked out over pound cake and bourbon,” Canaan continued. “But only if you are talking with each other rather than over each other. Southerners are almost always keenly aware of what divides us and what unites us. We are usually more than willing to own our own prejudices even if, and maybe especially if, we know they are wrong.”
Time In And Out” tells the story of young lovers, caught up in the cycle, balancing the reality of working hard and chasing dreams, while finding one another just in and out of reach along the road.
Writing and recording this # song together paved a path across the great plains and placed an exclamation point on the critical connection between the vibrant # music scene on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, with the historical hotbed of roots music here in the # Bluegrass State of Kentucky!
Mike Finders - # guitar , # vocal
Erin Youngberg - # bass , vocal
Rich Zimmerman - # mandolin
Aaron Youngberg - # banjo
Ryan Drickey - # fiddle
Aaron Bibelhauser - guitar, vocal
(by Aaron Bibelhauser & Mike Finders, BMI)
Engineering/Mixing by Aaron Youngberg, Swingfingers Recording Studio
Mastering by Anna Frick, Airshow Mastering
Publicity - Melanie Wilson, Wilson Pickins Promotions
# bluegrassmusic # artist # video # musicvideo
As of June 2018, 18 states and the District of Columbia had adopted anti-discrimination laws that included protections for transgender people. Generally speaking, these laws applied to employment, housing, and public accommodations. These states are listed in the table below. As of June 2018, there was no federal anti-discrimination law that provided protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 
|Anti-discrimination laws, June 2018|
High school student Gavin Grimm identified as a transgender male. After coming out as transgender, he began using the men's restroom in school. After nearly two months, parents of other children of the school complained to the Gloucester County School Board, which then created a policy prohibiting transgender students from using the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Grimm sued, arguing that the school board was violating Title IX, a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. The United States Department of Education had—in a January 7, 2015, letter—interpreted this ban on gender discrimination as including discrimination against people based on their gender identities and their use of bathrooms. 
After U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar ruled against Grimm, the case was appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the lower court's ruling in a 2-1 decision. The court affirmed The action of an appellate court confirming a lower court's decision. the right of the U.S. Department of Education to interpret Title IX and remanded To return a case or claim to a lower court for additional proceedings. the case back to the district court with instructions to allow Grimm's lawsuit to move forward. In June 2016, the U.S. Eastern District Court of Virginia ruled that Grimm should be allowed to use the men's restroom. The Gloucester County School Board then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the issue. In August 2016, The U.S. Supreme Court granted the school district's request to block the lower court's ruling until a full appeal was made, meaning Grimm was not allowed to use the men's restroom. On October 28, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari Latin for "to be more fully informed." It is an "order issued by the U.S. Supreme Court directing the lower court to transmit records for a case it will hear on appeal."  on the school board's petition, indicating that the court would hear the case during the court's October 2016 term.     
Argument in the case was scheduled for March 28, 2017, however, on March 6, 2017, the judgment in the case was vacated To void, cancel, nullify, or invalidate a verdict or judgment of a court. and the case was remanded To return a case or claim to a lower court for additional proceedings. to the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in consideration of new guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education on February 22, 2017. 
Note: Although the plaintiffs in the two cases below alleged discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it should be noted that sexual orientation and gender identity are not identical issues. See above for further information about these two terms.
Julienne Goins, a transgender woman, began consistently identifying as female in 1995. In May 1997, Goins was hired to work at West Group's Rochester, New York, office. Later that year, she transferred a West Group facility in Eagan, Minnesota. Prior to the formal transition, Goins was observed using the women's restroom at the Eagan facility. West Group's director of human resources, upon consultation with other employees and the company's legal counsel, "decided to enforce the policy of restroom use according to biological gender." The director of human resources determined that Goins should use single-occupancy restrooms at the facility. 
This decision was communicated to Goins on her first day of work at the Eagan facility. According to court documents, "Goins refused to comply with the restroom use policy, in protest in part, and continued to use the employee women's restroom closest to her workstation." In November 1997, Goins' superiors "threatened [her] with disciplinary action if she continued to disregard the restroom policy." In January 1998, Goins resigned (declining a promotion and salary increase). In her resignation letter, Goins claimed that the human resources department "had treated her in a manner that had caused undue stress and hostility." 
Goins filed suit in district court, "alleging that [West Group] had engaged in discrimination based on sexual orientation." Ultimately, in 2001, the case came before the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ruled against Goins. According to the state supreme court, "an employer's designation of employee restroom use based on biological gender is not sexual orientation discrimination in violation of the [Minnesota Human Rights Act]." 
In the fall of 2007, Nicole Maines began the fifth grade at Asa Adams School, an elementary school in Orono, Maine. Assigned male at birth, Nicole began to identify as a girl as a toddler and throughout elementary school. Nicole, who had been using girls' bathroom facilities at Asa Adams for some time prior, continued to do so upon entering the fifth grade, with the support of school personnel. Soon after the commencement of the school year, a male student "followed [Nicole] into the restroom on two separate occasions, claiming that he, too, was entitled to use the girls' bathroom. The student was acting on instructions from his grandfather, who was his guardian and was strongly opposed to the school's decision to allow Nicole to use the girls' bathroom." As a result of this controversy, school officials prohibited Nicole from using the girls' restroom. Instead, officials instructed Nicole to use a unisex staff bathroom. In December 2007, school officials "determined that Nicole would not be permitted to use the girls' bathroom" upon transitioning to middle school. Subsequently, the Maines family decided to move to another part of the state.  
On April 10, 2008, Nicole's mother, Kelly Maines, filed a complaint with the Maine Humans Rights Commission "alleging that the superintendent and other school district entities violated the [Maine Human Rights Act] by excluding Nicole from the communal girls' bathroom at Asa Adams." The commission unanimously agreed. On September 23, 2009, Nicole's parents, Kelly and Wayne Maines, filed suit against the school district in Maine Superior Court, "asserting claims for unlawful discrimination in education and unlawful discrimination in a place of public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation." On November 10, 2012, Judge William Anderson ruled in favor of the district, finding that the district had "acted within the bounds of its authority in prohibiting [Nicole] from using the girls' restroom, it did not itself harass [her] by its actions, and it was not deliberately indifferent to the harassment that [she] had experienced from others." The Maines family appealed the decision to the Maine Supreme Court.  
On January 30, 2014, the Maine Supreme Court ruled 5-1 in favor of the Maines family, reversing the lower court's decision. The court found that school officials had violated the state's anti-discrimination law. According to the Washington Blade, this decision marked "the first time a state court has ruled that trans students must be allowed to use a bathroom consistent with their gender identity."
The wildly popular books series and Starz TV show has inspired fans to visit local historic sites
WILMINGTON -- When Diana Gabaldon handed in the first book in her "Outlander" series, she was given some precautionary advice.
"My first editor told me that these would have to be word-of-mouth books because they are too weird to describe to anyone," said the Arizona-based author.
The book series, which now has eight installments, follows Claire, a British World War II nurse who time travels through a sacred stone portal to 1743 Scotland, where she falls in love with Jamie, a Scottish Highlander, and navigates the tumultuous and transformative history of the country’s defining era of war and loss.
Bouncing back and forth through time, the historical fiction series tells a sweeping love story that straddles two centuries while handling weighty subjects like cultural identity and the emotional trauma of rape – all filtered through the prism of Scottish history.
With some installments soaring over 1,000 pages, they aren’t short reads, either.
But after the first book was published in 1991, a funny thing happened. A ravenous fanbase started to build. Friends demanded their friends read it so they could talk about it. Book clubs selected the hefty editions as monthly spotlights. Websites and fan forums sprung up to discuss the story on a global scale. And then Starz adapted the novels into a wildly popular television series, rocketing Gabaldon’s story into the cultural stratosphere.
Nearly 30 years later, "Outlander," both the book and the series, now make up a massive cultural phenomenon that has millions of fans across the world. Many of those fans are taking their affection one step further to better understand the history that serves as the story’s backbone – and North Carolina’s historic sites are the latest beneficiaries.
Although Gabaldon’s first three books and TV seasons primarily take place in Scotland, Claire and Jamie eventually travel across the ocean and arrive in America by way of Wilmington, a real path taken by thousands of Scottish Highlanders in the years before and after the American Revolution.
The popularity of the TV series, which returns for its fifth season on Feb. 16, and North Carolina’s debut on it last year has brought the state’s colonial history into the lucrative world of "Outlander." Specifically, it has sent fans to historic sites in droves seeking to follow in the footsteps of the characters.
"I feel proud to see (this happening) in North Carolina," Gabaldon said. "I would have never expected people to not only read my books and get something out of them, but that they would feel compelled to find other people who did and want to do their own research into the history."
Just a few years ago, Regina Ochoa took a trip to visit Tryon Palace in New Bern, the colonial home of Royal Gov. William Tryon, who serves as a villainous presence in Gabaldon’s books and history – if you side with the Patriots, that is.
"I came here because I was reading the books and I wanted to witness what they would have seen," she said. "I fell in love with it. Being able to experience the living history really felt like I was thrown into the 1770s and it just made me really fall in love with the beautiful site."
Ochoa made return visits and, eventually, applied for the position of director of public affairs at Tryon Palace, a post from which she now gets to see and meet hundreds of "Outlander" fans making their own local connections.
"Being able to picture this story in a real place, to smell the fire and touch the bricks, it adds that extra element of magic to the living history," she said. "This was a real functioning place, these real figures were here. As a fan of the books, it makes it all more personal."
Closer to Wilmington, Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site in Winnabow, Moore’s Creek National Battlefield in Currie and the Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens in downtown Wilmington have all seen similar bands of "Outlander" fans swarm their sites over the years, a unique entryway into gaining a better understanding of North Carolina’s sometimes overlooked colonial history.
"It is a start for people," said Jim McKee, the site manager of Brunswick Town, the Cape Fear region’s first permanent settlement to 1725.
"Everyone knows Wilmington, let’s face it. But anytime we can explain the significant role of Brunswick Town, that’s what it’s all about. Even some Scottish societies forgot about (the role this town and port played), but we are slowly but surely getting back into people’s minds. ‘Outlander’ helps with that."
Similarly at the Burgwin-Wright House, which was built in 1770 at the corner of Third and Market streets, fans stop in daily to get more information on local "Outlander" hotspots.
"When they come in here, people want to see the interior of a colonial home that would have been here in the area because they see it referenced on the show," said Burgwin-Wright Museum executive director Christine Lamberton. "They want to get a feel for it, and see how people of that time period lived."
This isn’t the first time Gabaldon’s otherworldly romance has had a real-world impact.
In 2019, it was revealed that Scottish historic sites featured on the series or mentioned in the books were averaging nearly 70 percent more tourism since 2013, according to a study by VisitScotland.
"The Outlander Effect," as it is called, earned Gabaldon an International Contribution to Scottish Tourism last year, a small token of gratitude for her story’s immense impact.
In North Carolina, the historical tourism boom from "Outlander" hasn‘t seen that big a surge. But nearly every historic site in the southeastern part of the state that claims colonial roots has felt the ripple effects.
"We are really excited to see so many people looking at our site from a different perspective and wanting to appreciate the history that our state has" Ochoa said.
Gabaldon said she learned pretty early on her story may one day land in North Carolina because that’s where many Socttish Highlanders ended up during the land clearances in the 1700s.
"If that’s where history went, then Claire and Jamie must have gone with them," she said. "But which route did they take?"
Some Highlanders emigrated as far north as Nova Scotia, while thousands went right up the Cape Fear River, landing in Brunswick Town and eventually Wilmington before dispersing across the state. She chose to send her characters on the latter route because, as an American, she was excited to dig into the interwoven stories of a young country on the verge of independence and the group of immigrants dropped in the middle of it.
As they say, the rest is literary history.
Well before Starz adapted the books, Matt Woods with Moore’s Creek National Battlefield said fans would seek out the site to get closer to the material.
Moore’s Creek Bridge, which is featured prominently in the sixth book, "A Breath of Snow and Ashes," was the site of one of the state’s only major battles in the Revolutionary War and marked an early victory for the Patriots .
Scottish Highlanders, many of whom had emigrated into Wilmington right before war broke out, were ordered to sign a loyalty pledge to the king in order to secure land and made to fight for the crown. The battle is known as the last Scottish broadsword charge in history, referring to the fighting tactic that all but vanished after the defeat.
"People come here looking for Jamie Fraser and where he might have been in the battle," Woods said. "While the book is not a completely accurate portrayal of the battle, it does enough to draw people here where they can learn the correct story. Personally, I see it as a twist on history that gets different audiences involved. The people it brings in are non-traditional audiences for us."
Those audiences, Woods said, are people who haven’t previously sought out historic sites or reading material on their own, but dove in thanks to the Gabaldon’s stories.
As the "Outlander" TV series returns to television, it has settled into its new scenery in North Carolina – even though it still shoots in Scotland. Originally, there were plans to relocate the entire production to North Carolina, but executive producer Maril Davis said leaving their crew behind wasn’t an option – not to mention cost prohibitive. So they made it work a world away.
"We talk a lot about Scotland being a character on the show and we keep that alive," Davis said. "But North Carolina has become a character as well and we do the same thing we did before to make sure we bring that culture and that way of life into the show."
That commitment to maintain authenticity is what many in the local history community admire about "Outlander" and what they hope keeps fans making these trips.
"In general, I think they have done a wonderful job of doing that research and doing the work to make things accurate as possible," Ochoa said, of Tryon Palace. "We’re still holding out hope that they might film here one day."
If or when the show might make that journey is unknown – and frankly, unlikely.
But that hasn’t stopped historic sites from leaning into the "Outlander" craze and making its disciples feel welcome.
Tryon Palace does sold out themed tours of the home and the kitchen every third Saturday of the month. Moore’s Creek staff often talk about the Scottish Highlanders’ role in the battle and how it might relate to what fans have read or seen.
Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson even sells the book series in its visitors center lobby.
Others in the community hope the "Outlander Effect" branches out from the historic sites and fans take a more introspective next step.
Bob McLeod, co-president of the Scottish Society of Wilmington, said he is hoping Sottish heritage and genealogy will start to seek out connection with others.
The society is also in the middle of securing a location and funding to erect a monument along the Wilmington Riverfront to honor the Highlanders’ contributions to the formation of the country and the region – a project McLeod would like to see "Outlander" fans take an interest in as well.
"Up until recently, the society has been made up of people who want to know all about Scottish heritage," he said. "But there is so much history in Wilmington its own right and with the Highlanders, and that is something we need to do to bring to forefront. Tying that to ‘Outlander’ can only help."
Woods said he has already seen that transition from fandom to a genuine interest in genealogy.
"I would say the books piqued people’s interest, but it has also encouraged people who are now familiar with colonial or Scottish history to trace their lineage back to Highlanders in North Carolina," he said. "You‘d be surprised how many people can do that."
With the Gabaldon‘s story now firmly planted in North Carolina, it’s unclear how much "Outlander’s" presence can help the state’s historic sites – especially as more Western places like Alamance and the Blue Ridge Mountains become central figures in the story.
Davis wasn’t aware the tourism bump had reached North Carolina, but she’s happy to see the show’s reach continue to spread.
"I think it is great any time a show can kind of build a bridge from what is going on in the show to actual history and get people researching things even further," she said. "We see it as a bonus."
As for Gabaldon, she knows the responsibility on her shoulders to not only continue the Claire and Jamie story, but ensure her readers and fans aren‘t led astray in history.
"I feel a very deep obligation to get the historic parts right when I’m writing," she said. "My rule of thumb is always to be as accurate as history is."
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good afternoon and thank you all for being here. Today, I’m joined by [Vanita] Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. We are here to announce a significant law enforcement action regarding North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, also known as House Bill 2.
The North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2 in special session on March 23 of this year. The bill sought to strike down an anti-discrimination provision in a recently-passed Charlotte, North Carolina, ordinance, as well as to require transgender people in public agencies to use the bathrooms consistent with their sex as noted at birth, rather than the bathrooms that fit their gender identity. The bill was signed into law that same day. In so doing, the legislature and the governor placed North Carolina in direct opposition to federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity. More to the point, they created state-sponsored discrimination against transgender individuals, who simply seek to engage in the most private of functions in a place of safety and security – a right taken for granted by most of us.
Last week, our Civil Rights Division notified state officials that House Bill 2 violates federal civil rights laws. We asked that they certify by the end of the day today that they would not comply with or implement House Bill 2’s restriction on restroom access. An extension was requested by North Carolina and was under active consideration. But instead of replying to our offer or providing a certification, this morning, the state of North Carolina and its governor chose to respond by suing the Department of Justice. As a result of their decisions, we are now moving forward.
Today, we are filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina. We are seeking a court order declaring House Bill 2’s restroom restriction impermissibly discriminatory, as well as a statewide bar on its enforcement. While the lawsuit currently seeks declaratory relief, I want to note that we retain the option of curtailing federal funding to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina as this case proceeds.
This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms. This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them – indeed, to protect all of us. And it’s about the founding ideals that have led this country – haltingly but inexorably – in the direction of fairness, inclusion and equality for all Americans.
This is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation. We saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation. We saw it in fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education. And we saw it in the proliferation of state bans on same-sex unions intended to stifle any hope that gay and lesbian Americans might one day be afforded the right to marry. That right, of course, is now recognized as a guarantee embedded in our Constitution, and in the wake of that historic triumph, we have seen bill after bill in state after state taking aim at the LGBT community. Some of these responses reflect a recognizably human fear of the unknown, and a discomfort with the uncertainty of change. But this is not a time to act out of fear. This is a time to summon our national virtues of inclusivity, diversity, compassion and open-mindedness. What we must not do – what we must never do – is turn on our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans, for something they cannot control, and deny what makes them human. This is why none of us can stand by when a state enters the business of legislating identity and insists that a person pretend to be something they are not, or invents a problem that doesn’t exist as a pretext for discrimination and harassment.
Let me speak now to the people of the great state, the beautiful state, my state of North Carolina. You’ve been told that this law protects vulnerable populations from harm – but that just is not the case. Instead, what this law does is inflict further indignity on a population that has already suffered far more than its fair share. This law provides no benefit to society – all it does is harm innocent Americans.
Instead of turning away from our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues, let us instead learn from our history and avoid repeating the mistakes of our past. Let us reflect on the obvious but often neglected lesson that state-sanctioned discrimination never looks good in hindsight. It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had signs above restrooms, water fountains and on public accommodations keeping people out based upon a distinction without a difference. We have moved beyond those dark days, but not without pain and suffering and an ongoing fight to keep moving forward. Let us write a different story this time. Let us not act out of fear and misunderstanding, but out of the values of inclusion, diversity and regard for all that make our country great.
Let me also speak directly to the transgender community itself. Some of you have lived freely for decades. Others of you are still wondering how you can possibly live the lives you were born to lead. But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that we see you, we stand with you, and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side. This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise, little by little, one day at a time. It may not be easy – but we’ll get there together.
I want to thank my colleagues in the Civil Rights Division who have devoted many hours to this case so far, and who will devote many more to seeing it through. At this time, I’d like to turn things over to Vanita Gupta, whose determined leadership on this and so many other issues has been essential to the Justice Department’s work.
This week, Texas convenes a special session of the state legislature to advance a ‘bathroom bill’ condemned by trans people, activists, and business and faith leaders.
Landon Richie is scared, but also determined to fight on. Motivated by concern for his much-loved son’s safety and well-being, Landon’s father Aaron feels the same.
Landon is a transgender teenager, aged 14, from Missouri City, Texas. He currently uses the male bathroom, the bathroom that matches his gender identity, at his school.
Landon told The Daily Beast that he is “frustrated and fearful” that this bathroom choice could change as a result of his state’s Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and socially conservative Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s determination to pass a bathroom bill or bills in a specially convened session of the Texas Legislature, beginning on Tuesday.
Depending on their final form, the bill or bills might stipulate that transgender students in Texas schools—and perhaps extending to state employees and those attending public universities in the Lone Star State—must use the restroom according to the gender printed on their original birth certificate, rather than their actual gender identity.
These restrictions would affect an estimated 125,000 transgender Texans, the second-largest trans population in the U.S. after California.
Patrick and Abbott, who on Friday announced his plans for re-election as governor, will attempt for a second time to pass such legislation at the special session after their first attempts—Senate Bill 6 and an alternative House measure, House Bill 2899—did not pass during the regular legislative session. (Also up for discussion at the special session, according to the Texas Tribune: anti-abortion measures, school finance reform, and mail-in ballot fraud.)
SB 6, which would have required trans people to use bathrooms according to their “biological sex,” would have also rescinded protections accorded to LGBT residents as they applied to bathroom use, and freed employers from executing such protections.
Hundreds of trans people spoke out against SB 6 when it was being discussed at the Legislature, including the influential Dr. Colt Keo-Meier, co-founder of Gender Infinity, the largest trans health conference in Texas.
A devout Christian, Dr. Keo-Meier spoke about his “sacred duty” to keep “God’s transgender children of all ages… alive and safe.” He also spoke of the all-encompassing health crisis affecting trans people, which is only exacerbated by discrimination and rejection.
Faced with one senator’s gripe over the general public’s “privacy rights,” Dr. Keo-Meier said that one group’s privacy “doesn’t come at the expense of the other.” Creating a separate place for transgender people to go to the bathroom would amount to segregation, Dr. Keo-Meier added.
Supporters of SB 6 seemed to conflate trans people using the bathrooms of their choice with the possibility of “predators” exploiting the fact that trans people could use those facilities as a cover for being able to commit crimes.
As reported in Think Progress, when launching “Operation One Million Voices,” in support of SB 6 in March, Patrick had tweeted “We don’t want to give sexual predators a free pass to enter their restroom.” He said that “this is not an LGBT issue, it’s not a transgender issue, it’s about preventing a free pass to sexual predators who are not transgender.”
Neither Abbott nor Patrick have explained, however, why if this is the case, they are crafting a law targeting transgender people’s bathroom use, rather than sexual predators.
Abbott, who like Patrick did not return The Daily Beast’s requests for comment for this story, has said he wants a bathroom bill that “at a minimum. protects the privacy of our children in public schools.”
Abbott, Patrick and their supporters have yet to fully define or specify what precise danger or hurt, or invasion of privacy, trans people using the bathroom of their choice could lead to for others.
Also unacknowledged by the men is the safety or physical and mental hurt trans people say they will experience by being singled out in law, or an acknowledgment of the “privacy” and “safety” trans people say that they deserve when visiting a restroom.
“Personally, I am frustrated that they are continuing to push bills that are unnecessary and dangerous to the trans community who are already hugely vulnerable,” said Landon Richie.
His father Aaron added: “I am disappointed with our leaders, Patrick and Abbott especially, for endangering the safety of the trans community, especially when it comes to our kids.”
“If this bill were to pass I would not be legally allowed to use the male restroom,” said Landon. “My school already asked that I use the nurse’s restroom. That is not the place I belong. I am a boy and I belong in a boys’ restroom. It’s segregation, and it can affect my studies and my school day.
“The nurse’s restroom is far away from anywhere else, and me using it raises the question, ‘Why I don’t use the regular restroom?’ If a bill was passed, my school day would be very different.”
Landon and his father are from alone. Trans people, civil rights groups, and faith and business organizations opposed to the bill who spoke to The Daily Beast called the measures, variously, not only “despicable” and “an attack on trans people,” but also “terrible” for business in the state.
One estimate has Texas standing to lose almost $6 billion of income should the bill or bills go into effect.
The Dallas Morning News reported Friday that IBM, one of the largest technology employers in the state, took out full-page advertisements in the Dallas Morning News, San Antonio Express-News, and Austin American Statesman opposing the proposed legislation.
Top executives from the company will testify at the special session against the bills.
In May, IBM, alongside Apple and Facebook, sent Abbott a letter claiming “any such legislation would deeply tarnish Texas’ reputation as open and friendly to businesses and families.”
The most recent poll, conducted by the Texas Tribune, showed that 44 percent of Texans considered the bathroom bill important, compared to 47 percent who do not.
Texas will, say the proposed bill’s critics, face the same shaming as North Carolina received over its notorious “HB2” bathroom bill, with very real economic effects flowing from such legislation too—something the governor and lieutenant governor appear so far insouciant about. (HB2 mutated into the still much-criticized HB142 in March this year.)
Activists fighting to keep a bathroom bill off the statute book in Texas were recently emboldened by Republican House Speaker Joe Straus telling the New Yorker’s Lawrence Wright about his encounter with a senator-emissary allegedly sent by Dan Patrick to Straus’ office with a proposed bathroom bill.
“I’m not a lawyer, but I am a Texan,” Straus told the senator. “I’m disgusted by all this. Tell the lieutenant governor I don’t want the suicide of a single Texan on my hands."
According to 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 40 percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt, nearly nine times the rate in the U.S. population (4.6 percent). Seven percent of trans respondents had attempted suicide in the last year, compared to 0.7 percent in the general population.
The stalemate in the last session of the Texas legislature has led to Tuesday’s special session, whose estimated cost—if it runs to 30 days—could be in the region of $1 million to $1.2 million.
In Wright’s fascinating portrait of Texan political life, he reported that Patrick, a fervent cultural conservative, was the prime mover behind the anti-trans legislation rather than Abbott.
According to The New Yorker, at a prayer rally on the Capitol steps in February, Patrick declared, “They don’t want prayer in public schools, they’re not pro-life, they see nothing wrong with boys and girls showering together in the tenth grade, or a man being in a women’s bathroom.”
In May, after Patrick rejected his suggestion of a compromise bill, Straus said his concern was to “protect our economy from billions of dollars in losses and more importantly to protect the safety of some very vulnerable young Texans.”
Two bills, HB 46 and HB 50, have so far been filed for the special session, sponsored by state Rep. Ron Simmons. A further Senate Bill, SB 23, is aimed at prohibiting cities from introducing non-discrimination legislation above and beyond that which has been sanctioned at state level.
HB 46 would stop school boards from enforcing policies that allow transgender youth or staff to use the restrooms of their choice, HB 50 would undo any ordinances passed in specific cities designed to protect the rights of trans people to use the public bathrooms they want.
Simmons told The Daily Beast: “At least in Texas, for 170 years since we’ve been a state, bathroom usage was understood. People used the bathrooms… you know, male used male, female used female.
“All HB 46 and HB 50 does is says this is an issue that needs a lot of debate and a lot of discussion. Right now, we don't need patchwork of ordinances around the state. We need to keep in place what is currently in place until there is a federal law or a state law change.
“We’re also protecting—just like a transgender woman might feel uncomfortable going into the biological bathroom of her choice, say she’s a biological man, but a transgender woman—a person who is not transgender who might feel very uncomfortable for someone who is biologically male to be in same shower or changing facility as them. We’re protecting their privacy as well.”
Simmons dismissed Speaker Straus’ concerns over trans suicide. “I don’t think there are any statistics that relate trans use in restrooms to suicide rates.” He added he would be happy to study such figures if they existed.
There are, in fact, many statistics showing the high levels of discrimination and prejudice experienced by transgender Texans.
In the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 61 percent of trans Texans reported avoiding public restrooms because they were afraid of confrontations or other problems they might experience. Thirty-six percent limited what they ate or drank so they wouldn’t have to visit a restroom.
Simmons told The Daily Beast that if another legislator wanted to introduce a piece of state-wide legislation in opposition to his and the governor and lieutenant governor, then the legislature could debate and vote on that. “These (Simmons’) bills are saying that we should leave things in place until there is further debate and change in the state and federal law.”
Should any trans person feel uncomfortable using the bathroom in the manner desired by Simmons, Abbott, and Patrick, “they (the institution) can provide special accommodation, or a single-use scenario,” Simmons told The Daily Beast.
Simmons dismissed the suggestion that many trans people feel that would lead to physical discomfort, and merely perpetuates discrimination, stigmatization and prejudice.
“I would respectfully disagree,” Simmons said. “I would understand why they would say that. But you also have 99.7 percent of the population who is not transgender, and I believe just as many 15 and 16-year-old girls and boys who do not want to shower or change in the presence of someone of the opposite biological sex, even if they're gender-identified.”
A reporter asked if Simmons had surveyed 15- and 16-year-olds for their views, or had any supporting statistics or material to make such a statement about what those young people think.
“I have personally not done that,” said Simmons. “What has been done is polling throughout the country and in Texas that clearly says parents do not want their schoolchildren changing in changing facilities and multi-occupancy bathrooms with people of the opposite sex. I also want to treat everyone with respect.”
A reporter pointed out to Simmons that the “people” he was referring to would not be of the opposite sex, but of the same sex as they identified as transgender.
“They’re identifying as that. They are not biologically the same in most cases,” Simmons replied.
Simmons dismissed accusations that the bills were, as their critics see them, charters for discrimination and prejudice. “We are doing exactly the opposite. We are making sure no one as far as we are concerned is being discriminated against.”
During a Friday conference call organized by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), representatives from a range of civil rights organizations poured condemnation on the planned bathroom bills.
JoDee Winterhof, the senior vice president of policy and political affairs at HRC, said Abbott and Patrick, having introduced 30 anti-LGBTQ bills—with 11 passing in at least one chamber—were “trying to make Texas a leader in discrimination.”
Late last month the Texas Supreme Court ruled that same-sex spouses should not receive the same spousal benefits as heterosexual couples.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Lambda Legal are already preparing to mount legal challenges should the bathroom bill or bills pass.
Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT and AIDS Project, told The Daily Beast: “The courts have held over and over again that laws that discriminate against trans individuals run afoul of laws prohibiting sex discrimination and afoul of the Constitution’s guarantee of legal protection and due process.
“The Supreme Court has made particularly clear that an animus against a particular group of people cannot be the basis for supporting legislation targeting a group of people.”
With the Texas bathroom bill/s, said Strangio, “we have procedural irregularities, lies, targeting the trans community, which are impermissible bases to pass legislation. Any legislation passed in this context are susceptible to legal challenge.”
In Texas itself, Lisa Scheps, interim executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, told The Daily Beast that the state’s trans population feels “particularly targeted and under attack. I’m completely flummoxed about the idea of it possibly passing seeing as how disastrous on so many levels it proved in North Carolina. Nobody is supporting this.
“The Legislature is just lying to get it passed by saying this is about the safety of women and children when it’s not. It’s simply a discriminatory bill to discriminate against gender-diverse people in the state of Texas. I’m just so confused why it seems to be so necessary to go to so much trouble to get it passed. They purport to be about ‘family values,’ but it’s really just a way to spew hate.”
Scheps, like others, saw legislators as focusing on a bathroom bill as a wedge issue to stoke up support for the Republican base in Texas. “Since the marriage equality became legal, trans people are next up. It’s a dangerous time to be trans.”
Trans people in Texas were both mobilizing and fearful, Scheps said. “What Straus said about suicides is true. The amount of vitriol spewed against trans people is scary for a lot of us. I know when I need to use a restroom and in the State Capitol I don’t feel as safe as I did before. Suddenly there’s a different feeling in the air and it’s scary. A lot of us in our community are marginalized already and to have one other thing like this gives a tipping point.
“Many trans people are socio-economically depressed, and trans women of color are being killed at an ungodly rate.”
The bills were most insidious in how they targeted trans youth, said Scheps. “These kids are already marginalized in school, now you want to put them into situations that are unhealthy, terrifying and not safe. These are defenseless young people, many of whom don’t have parents advocating for them either.”
Scheps applauded one school she went to that insisted that anyone who had a problem with trans kids using the bathroom of their choice should themselves choose another bathroom.
Young trans people have told Scheps they are scared, and feeling dehumanized.
The proposed bills, she said, only give schools more power to discriminate following President Trump’s rescinding in February of the Obama administration’s directive that the federal government considered restrictions on transgender students’ access to restrooms and locker rooms to be in violation of Title IX’s 1972 ban on sex discrimination in public education.
Lou Weaver, Transgender Programs Coordinator for the statewide campaigning organization Equality Texas, said the planned bill or bills “say ‘You’re not the same, you don’t deserve the same equality,’ when really we are Texan, and part of all Texans is to have the same strong values and be able to go to work and school and take care of our families.”
“Dan Patrick is creating a solution in search of a problem, and Straus sees it for what it is. We want all Texans to call their elected officials to say, ‘We want Texas to be on the right side of history. We do not want this.’”
As led by IBM and Apple, the world of commerce also appears set against the proposed Texas bathroom bills.
Jessica Shortall, managing director of Texas Competes, a coalition of more than 1300 employers and chambers of commerce mobilizing against the bills, told The Daily Beast that Texas was at the “beginning of a journey” of economic decline and possibly disaster.
Ten significant conventions in Texas have already been canceled, Shortall said, meaning a loss of $26.5 million. The overall financial impact of the bills passing has been estimated to be $4.1 billion through 2020, and $5.6 billion through 2026, she said.
Shortall has noted that businesses, used to lobbying purely focused on the bottom line, have been raising their objections with Texas legislators in more “moral” tones, denouncing the targeting of a specific minority group. Conservative politicians like Straus, she said, are also speaking out in a way they haven’t done before.
Shortall said the financial impact of the bills would not only be measured in the millions, but also in ordinary Texans working in the tourism industry—the second-largest business in Texas after oil—also suffering as meetings were canceled. “So you have those empty hotel rooms not needing to be cleaned, and all the workers in those hotels not being required for their shifts.” Restaurants, bars, taxis, construction (for the building of new hotels) would also be affected, she said.
“This is a manufactured issue and one that will damage Texas families, communities and budgets—and for some reason that harm does not appear to be a priority to the Legislature,” Shortall said.
Job recruiters, said Shortall, were already reporting difficulties in attracting talent to Texas as a result of publicity around the bills, with millennials particularly hostile to the idea of working in a state known to be so actively anti-LGBT. “Ultimately, companies won’t want to invest money in expanding and growing jobs in this state if it is not consistent with our values,” Shortall said.
Kathryn Gonzales, operations and programs director of the non-profit Out Youth based in Austin serving LGBT youth in Central Texas, said the group had seen “a huge spike in trans youth saying, ‘This really hitting me hard,’ and increasing suicidal ideation among them. In many cases our youth are not accepted at home, not accepted at school, then on top of that our state leaders are saying, ‘You don't matter here.’ They didn't understand what the problem is and why they are being targeted.”
The trans children she knows are “exhausted” by the six months of wrangling about why they can’t use the bathroom “that conforms with the gender identity they know themselves to be. They want to know when it will be over. They thought it was over. Then the special session was announced.”
For Gonzales, the authorities have identified what facilities they have control over to “paint a target on to backs of trans kids.”
“If this passes kids will kill themselves. Period. If this happens kids will die,” said Gonzales. “What bothers me most is that they don’t care. They have drawn the trans community as the nemesis that the rest of society needs protection from when in reality it’s the trans community that most needs protection from the general public because legislators keep stoking the fires of misunderstanding and hatred.
“We are way more likely to get assaulted in a bathroom than assault someone in a bathroom. There is no forethought in any of this, and it’s sad. We are the next scapegoat.”
Young trans people report a range of experiences at school, said Gonzales. “It goes from ‘Nobody talks to me at school because of who I am,’ to ‘I’m constantly bullied by students and staff and can’t use the bathroom that matches my gender identity and nobody will call me by name and pronoun.’
“We also have the opposite of that: kids saying their schools are cool, they are called by their right name, records are properly updates, teachers will use correct pronouns, they can use whichever restroom they want, and play on gendered sports teams.”
Gonzales finds it fascinating that Austin, known for its cool, progressive image, possesses more official bureaucracy to negotiate, whereas she has found schools in more suburban and semi-rural areas more smoothly welcoming to trans kids.
“I will ask those head teachers why, and their response is always the same, ‘It’s the right thing to do, and it’s what Jesus taught us to do.’ The religious component is important. Those folks are reading their Bibles and saying, ‘Well Jesus would want me to treat these kids in the right way, as a human being.’”
A broad coalition of religious groups is supporting trans people too, to counter the hardline religious groups traditionally visibly, and more loudly, ranged against LGBT equality.
Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact and the Texas Interfaith Center For Public Policy, said her group represented 5 million Texans belonging to Christian, Jewish, and Muslim denominations.
“We support equal respect and honoring the diversity of all people in the state,” Moorhead told The Daily Beast.
Politicians should focus on practical strategies to help all Texans, rather than using minority groups like trans people for “ideological sparring,” she added.
“It would be irresponsible for mainstream faith communities to stay out of the fray when clearly this issue has become a fight for the heart and soul, for the culture, of Texas.”
Worshippers are coming together to lobby legislators, said Moorhead. “This isn’t optional. If you care about our state’s culture of diversity and inclusiveness, if you think Texas’ friendliness is a value to bring to America, you better get on down to Capitol and tell them to cut this anti-transgender nonsense out.”
In May, the Dallas Morning News reported that Abbott had reached out to leaders of ten churches in order to “drum up support” for the then-stalled SB 6. bathroom bill. For the “One Million Voices” campaign, Patrick had allied himself with anti-LGBT groups such as Vision America, the Texas Pastor Council, and Texas Values.
According to ABC News, Texas conservative groups are threatening Republicans that if, following Straus’ lead, they don’t support Abbott and Patrick's bathroom bill in the special session, then come the 2018 GOP primaries they will be the object of attempts to unseat them.
“When legislators and the ideological right-wing lobby try to paint the picture of faith communities supporting this legislation, we’re here to tell people that mainstream faith communities do not," Moorhead told The Daily Beast. "I don’t think anyone wants this state to be the state it would be if Texas passes the bill. I think Texan legislators love Texas too much to let this happen to it.”
The proposed bills not only bring threat, but also absurdity. It is not just young people who the bills would affect, Kathryn Gonzales told The Daily Beast.
“If the law passes, I as a trans woman who works in public schools, would be forced to use the boys’ restroom in the schools I go to because my birth certificate has not been amended. That will be uncomfortable, but I’m willing to do it just to show how silly this whole thing is.”
According to Abbott and Patrick’s desires, Gonzales would have to use the boys’ restrooms in all the high schools, middle schools and elementary schools she visits as part of her job.
“I don't know what sane person would think that was a good idea,” she said. “That feels really gross. The whole argument this time has been, ‘We want to keep men out of women’s restrooms. We want to protect the privacy of women and children.’ Well your new law is putting a trans woman into a little boys’ restroom in an elementary school.’”
Gonzales is sometimes asked why she can’t use the teachers’ or nurses’ restrooms. “If I have got to go to the bathroom I’m not going to hunt down someone with a key for one of those bathrooms. I’m going to go to the nearest bathroom like we all do. If this new law passes, I’m going to end up having to use the little boys’ restroom and it’s going to make things super-uncomfortable for everybody.”
It’s very clear to Gonzales that legislators “have a particular image of what a trans woman is, and that they didn't know that trans men even existed. My boyfriend is a trans man who would be required under the new law to use a little girls’ restroom in a school.
“He looks like a man. He is a man. The new law will demand that he is going to be a man in a girls’ bathroom. They didn't think this through logically. It just makes no sense to me.”
Gonzales came out as a gay man at 14, then as trans woman when she came to know herself as one. She has had the dual experience of having her gay right to marry denied, and now as a trans woman is enduring a new, if familiar, set of challenges and prejudices.
The legislators think of trans people as characters from an old Jerry Springer show, Gonzales said. “Then they meet me or a trans man or a non-binary person and they go, ‘You’re not scary, We don’t see why this is a big deal.’ She has been in transition for seven years and has “never had a single issue in a bathroom, but I won’t go see a doctor or a yoga class or social event unless there’s someone there I already know. My personal safety is always a concern.”
As Tuesday approaches, OutYouth is running a Take My Hand Texas campaign to show support for trans youth. People should also express their support for Speaker Straus “for being on the right side of this,” Gonzales added.
The damage of the bill, if it passes, will be not just what it prohibits but the scrambling message it sends, said Gonzales, about trans bathroom usage outside school and state confines (in shopping malls and the like), and in providing a green light for anti-trans bashers and vigilantes.
The fear of being attacked affects trans people of all ages, which makes the politicians’ talk of protecting others from trans people all the more ironic.
Landon Richie told The Daily Beast that before high school he was “brutally harassed by students and placed in uncomfortable situations” at middle school. There he used the nurse’s restroom because he felt most comfortable and safest there. Throughout middle school he would try “to hold it in” to avoid going to the restroom.
At high school he is most comfortable in the male restroom. If the proposed new laws materialize, his use of another restroom would bring “unwanted attention,” he said, and simple frustration that he would have to travel across school to use a restroom when his chosen restroom is near to his classroom.
“Already I am wary when I step into the restroom. I don’t know who I know in there, will they know my past, and now I think about the reaction there will there be given this increased focus on the place where I feel uncomfortable.”
Listening to Dan Patrick and his supporters has shown Landon “the level of ignorance” about what being transgender is.
“It’s very fear-derived and not educated. These people are not aware of what they are talking about. They think they are doing something good, but they are being extremely harmful to an extremely vulnerable group of people and they don’t seem to realize it.
“It’s most definitely affected my mental health. I find myself feeling a lot of stress and worried how this situation will turn out and what it will mean for my future. The reality is so many trans kids like myself find it very worrying and frustrating to hear these claims over and over again, knowing that the ignorance is something we’re going to have to battle for quite some while.”
His father Aaron told The Daily Beast that the Texas bathroom bill fight had kept him and his wife Erika “motivated to love and support our kid and do everything we can to keep him safe. Part of that now includes making several-hour trips to the state capitol to speak to elected officials in an attempt to educate them on how harmful this bill is to our family, our son, and our many friends and loved ones.
“Regardless of the outcome of the special session we will not stop fighting for our kids’ rights. We will not give into discrimination against our kid.”
“I want legislators to know trans people are not asking for any accommodation or special treatment,” Landon said. “We just want to be able to exist and go through life safely. We are no less deserving of love, respect, and dignity. We are human: your neighbors, your kids. We just want to live our lives as ourselves without having to worry about if and where we will be harmed. Because of these bills those risks are greatly increased.”