North Carolina transgender law: Is it discriminatory?

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Bathroom sign (Stock photo)

RALEIGH, N.C. — Paul Stam and Candis Cox are on opposite sides of the debate over a controversial new transgender law that’s turning national attention toward North Carolina.

To Stam, a Republican state lawmaker who sponsored the measure, it’s a necessary step that stops anyone from getting special rights and one city from dictating policies that should be decided by the state. To Cox, a transgender woman and advocate, it’s a dangerous and discriminatory measure that puts her and tens of thousands of others at risk.

In separate interviews with CNN’s Nick Valencia on Sunday, Stam and Cox shared their thoughts on a number of issues raised by the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which puts in place a statewide policy that bans individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex.

Here’s a look at how they weighed in on several aspects of the new law:

About whether it’s discriminatory…

Stam: “The law did not change the policy on discrimination an appreciable extent between two weeks ago and today. What they’re really complaining about is that we have not become like the 17 other states that have put in special rights for them. … We’re trying to protect the reasonable expectations of privacy of 99.9% of our citizens, who think when they’re going into a restroom or a changing room or a locker room, that they will be private.”

Cox: “This law affects us because it puts us in danger, and it’s open discrimination. It’s no different than the Jim Crow laws that we had here in the South. There are many Americans who are alive today and were alive with some of those laws before we passed the Civil Rights bill. This law is literally the same thing. And if we didn’t find that acceptable, this is not acceptable. It doesn’t matter who it’s towards. Discrimination is not acceptable.”

About the special session legislators called to pass it…

Stam: “For 180 years, North Carolina has had the constitutional public policy that issues of labor and trade would be decided on a statewide basis instead of locally. And so, without any legal authority whatsoever, Charlotte decided to go against that (by passing an ordinance in February that said transgender residents could use the restroom of the gender they identify with). Charlotte had no authority to do its ordinance, but yet was threatening tens of thousands of businesses with fines and even minor punishments if they didn’t comply. … They were threatening 23,000 businesses and nonprofits, including churches, with fines and minor other punishments if they didn’t conform to that policy.”

Cox: “They spent $40,000 (to have a special session). … Well, I’m glad that they’re paying that much attention (to the transgender community). I just wish that they actually knew what we needed. We need protection. We need to know that we can’t be fired for being transgender. We need to know that we can sue for discrimination. We need to have more education and more awareness and public services for transgendered people. We need to make an environment where transgendered people feel comfortable coming forward.”

About the economic impact…

Stam: “When we passed our marriage amendment four and a half years ago, we had the same attention. (People said) businesses would flee, people wouldn’t live here. Since then, we’ve gone from the back of the pack in the nation, now we’re the second fastest economy in job growth. We’re ranked right at the top in site selection, so it will have about as much effect as it did four and a half years ago. I feel somewhat sorry for these big company CEOs, because they get bullied by people, maybe in New York, who come to their stockholder meetings. But it has nothing to do with what happens on the ground in North Carolina.”

Cox: “This (a provision in the law that says public agencies can provide single-stall bathrooms for special circumstances) is assuming that in a state that is already fighting to bring in business to garner revenue, all these government buildings are going to somehow magically have enough money to build, designate and create single-stall restrooms.”

About birth certificates and gender…

Stam: “In North Carolina, you can have your birth certificate changed if you do reassignment surgery. It has been reported several places that we said it’s your sex as designated at birth (that government agencies will use to define who can use bathrooms or changing facilities). And that is not correct. … It’s not what you are at birth. It’s based on your birth certificate, which can be changed.”

Cox: “It’s not just that easy. First of all, the gender on your birth certificate, whether or not you can change it is determined by the state in which you were born, not the state in which you reside. I reside in North Carolina. My birth certificate was issued in the state of New York. So my birth certificate and the gender changing is determined by those state laws. Not every state in the country even will allow you to change the gender. Some states will allow you to only amend the gender.

Also, every state has rules and criteria. Some require you to have a letter from a plastic surgeon that states that you have undergone sexual reassignment surgery and removal of your reproductive organs for your born gender. Some require a letter from a psychologist staying that you’ve been diagnosed as having gender identity issues, and that you identify in that. So he is correct in that you could just change it. But that assumes that you were born in a state that allows you to change your gender, and that you have already completed all of the steps that that state requires you to go through in order to change the gender on your birth certificate.”