Here We Go: Charlotte, North Carolina Passes Bill Allowing Transgender People to Use Public Bathrooms of Their Choice

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Council members in the state’s largest city passed an ordinance allowing transgender people to choose public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

Gov. Pat McCrory, previously Charlotte’s mayor, had called the idea a threat to public safety and warned that the state’s legislature might step in.

“Being assigned male at birth — it can be dangerous if I walk into the men’s bathroom,” Charlotte resident Lara Nazario said at the council meeting before a 7-4 vote. “I’m told I am in the wrong one or ‘outed’ as transgender. This often leads to violence.”

Charlotte City Council voted to expand protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, making it the latest frontier in a national debate on how businesses treat gay, lesbian and transgender customers. One of the revisions to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance now allows people to choose restrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify.

“I’m pleased that Charlotte has sent a signal that we will treat people with dignity and respect, even when we disagree,” Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, a Democrat, said moments after the vote.

McCrory, a Republican, had said in an email Sunday that changing the policy on restrooms could “create major public safety issues.”

“Also, this action of allowing a person with male anatomy, for example, to use a female restroom or locker room will most likely cause immediate state legislative intervention, which I would support as governor,” he wrote in the email to two council members.

The Government Center had a full house with crowds spilling into overflow rooms. About 140 people spoke for one minute each.

“If this went for a public vote, it would be profoundly defeated,” Charlotte resident Jeanette Wilson said of City Council. “And that makes you the bully. This ordinance is bad for Charlotte.”

The issue has been part of a national debate that included voters’ high-profile defeat of a nondiscrimination ordinance late last year in Houston. Lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender advocates worried bathroom-access fears would be used elsewhere to fight equal-rights measures.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Sarah Hagen