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LGBT groups are split on protections for trans people in bathrooms

by Leo Duran | Take Two®

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The gender-neutral door to the bathroom at the endocrinology wing at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles. The sign is designed to make all patients, including transgender patients, comfortable. Leo Duran/KPCC

States like North Carolina were mired in controversy when lawmakers passed bills restricting transgender people to only use public restrooms that matched the gender they were born with, not the one they identify as.

But surprisingly, the fight over bathrooms also caused a rift within an unexpected coalition – LGBT organizations.

These groups are now working to pass laws in states that would protect LGBT people from discrimination. But should those bills also allow trans people to use their choice of bathrooms, too?

On one side are organizations like the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign who say those proposed laws must include that protection.

But on the other are groups like the National Center for Transgender Equality and Freedom for All Americans who have seen that the bathroom issue can be incredibly contentious.

They believe it would be a poison pill to add restroom protections to anti-discrimination bills.

If that issue were off the table, they argue, then it would be easier for state lawmakers to pass laws that still protect LGBT people in the workplace, in housing and more.

"This is really a disagreement about the top agenda item among LGBT politics," says Buzzfeed reporter Dominic Holden, "which is really a fallout over the future of the LGBT movement."

He adds, "People feel a lot of anger and are worried that a compromise – even on public accommodations – could open up a bigger rift that might lead to even larger compromises that leave trans people behind."

Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously gave the impression that the bills currently at issue are ones that would restrict transgender people's access to public accommodations like bathrooms. The debate is over proposed laws that would prevent discrimination against LGBT people. We regret the error.


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