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Separate actions this week by the federal and California state governments rebuking North Carolina legislation that target the transgender community are being praised in Los Angeles and West Hollywood.
The U.S. Department of Justice this week filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of North Carolina for its recently passed HB2 legislation. Dubbed the “bathroom bill,” HB2 marked a sweeping reversal of ordinances that protected transgender citizens who use public restrooms based on their gender identity.
“The legislature and the governor placed North Carolina in direct opposition to federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, a native North Carolinian, said in announcing the suit. “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.”
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), whose district comprises LGBT-friendly West Hollywood among other areas, praised the Department of Justice and Lynch for filing the suit.
“This is about basic dignity and equality under the law, and treating everyone with respect.” Schiff said. “As several states adopt these misguided laws, it’s our responsibility at the federal level – both in Congress and in the Administration – to fight back against these discriminatory provisions.”
Separately, the California Assembly passed two measures addressing the issue locally and attempting to exert pressure on North Carolina and states with similar legislation. The first measure makes single-user restrooms in public and government buildings “all gender,” meaning anyone can use the restroom. The second measure prohibits taxpayer-funded travel to states that have policies viewed as discriminatory to the transgender community.
Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) said that he was “proud” to support the measures, AB 1732 and AB 1887.
“This week, California sent a strong message to North Carolina and any other state, business, or individual seeking to discriminate against LGBT individuals,” Bloom said. “I will continue to oppose unjust and prejudiced policies against the transgender community.”
West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister said the federal and state moves are a step in the right direction. The city of West Hollywood has been at the forefront of the issue, Meister said. In April, the city passed an ordinance that suspends “official travel” to North Carolina, and directs the city to review any contracts with businesses based in North Carolina.
That ordinance marked a continuation of West Hollywood’s efforts to protect its transgender citizens, Meister said. The city enacted a gender-neutral bathroom law in 2015 and had previously appointed one of the first transgendered advisory boards in the country.
“We are totally in support of our transgendered community,” Meister said. “We feel it is our role as a local government to protect the rights of our constituents. We oppose discriminatory laws.”
Dave Garcia, director of policy at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, said the California state legislation could have an impact on North Carolina’s policies. By restricting taxpayer-funded travel to states that discriminate against transgender people, California is directly taking money away from those governments and the businesses they represent.
Garcia highlighted the impact of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which gave businesses the greenlight to discriminate against their LGBT customers. One economic impact study founded the state missed out on nearly $60 million in revenue because of that legislation.
“In the same way the business community has influenced the hearts and minds, if not the fiduciary responsibility, of those governments, I think the states that put pressure on state legislatures can have a similar affect,” Garcia said.
Garcia also praised the Justice Department and Lynch for the suit. It shows that the federal government will not support state-sponsored discrimination, he said.
“What they did yesterday is historic and will go down as a historic moment for the LGBT community and the transgendered community more specifically,” he said.
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