The North Carolina Legislature created an uproar among LGBT rights advocates and prominent business leaders in March when it passed a controversial law prohibiting local jurisdictions in the state from enacting non-discrimination measures protecting LGBT people.
Many supporters of the law said it was necessary because measures protecting transgender people from discrimination would allow men to use women’s bathrooms and subject women to potential harassment and sexual assaults.
This week Police Chief Cathy Lanier of D.C. and law enforcement officials in Maryland – both of which have laws banning discrimination against transgender people – said they could not identify a single case in which a transgender person has been charged with assaulting or harassing women in a public bathroom.
“I’m not aware of any police-related cases — none,” said Lanier when asked by the Washington Blade if D.C. police have been called to public bathrooms because of threats against women by a transgender person.
Assistant D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham, who was with Lanier when she commented on the issue at a police news conference on Tuesday, said he too was unaware of that type of bathroom-related issue.
“If something like that would have occurred in all likelihood I would have been notified,” he said. “But I have not heard of anything like that. So that’s not clearly an issue in the District.”
In Maryland, police or law enforcement spokespersons for the state’s three largest population centers — Baltimore City, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County — each said they also were unaware of instances of transgender harassment or assaults on women in public bathrooms.
Like D.C., which passed a transgender non-discrimination law in 2006, Maryland passed such a law in 2014. Montgomery County passed its own transgender non-discrimination law in 2008.
Det. Nicole Monroe, a public information officer with the Baltimore Police Department, said no reports of transgender harassment or other problems in public bathrooms have come to her attention since Maryland adopted its trans non-discrimination law.
“Where is this coming from?” she asked. “Just because you’re transitioning doesn’t make you a rapist. You go in your stall and you do your thing,” she said. “It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
Added Monroe, who is a 22-year veteran on the Baltimore police force: “I mean you have to worry wherever you go now. But not from somebody using the bathroom that’s transitioning. That has nothing to do with your safety. I’m more concerned in going to the bathroom about somebody reaching under and trying to snatch my purse.”
Montgomery County police spokesperson Rick Goodale said he would arrange for a search of various police records to confirm whether or not transgender-related offenses have taken place in women’s bathrooms.
“Just off hand, I don’t know of any specific incidents in recent memory that we’ve had on complaints like that,” he said. “We have duty commanders that work after hours and they file reports every night about incidents that happen in the county. And I don’t remember any reports about anything like that.”
Ramon Korionoff, public affairs director for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, which is in charge of prosecuting criminal cases, said he checked with people in his office that would be familiar with bathroom-related offenses.
“The people who would have some historical knowledge cannot remember anything of the sort,” he said.
Officer Tyler Hunter, a Prince George’s County police spokesperson, said he also checked with department officials and no cases of public bathroom related problems involving transgender people could be found.
In Delaware, which passed a transgender non-discrimination bill in 2013, the LGBT-friendly beach resort town of Rehoboth Beach has not had any issue or problem related to public bathrooms and transgender people, according to Rehoboth Police Chief Keith Banks.
“We’ve had no concerns on this and no complaints have been made, and we have observed none,” Banks told the Blade on Wednesday. “We’re a diverse community and we’ve just had no issue, no encounters of that nature,” he said.
Spokespersons for the police departments in San Francisco and Los Angeles said they weren’t aware of trans-related bathroom problems but they would need to check police records to provide a definitive answer on the matter. California’s statewide Unruh Civil Rights Act bans discrimination against trans people as well as gays and lesbians.
In New York City, an NYPD spokesperson said he too was unaware of transgender-related problems in public bathrooms but would have to also arrange for a check of police records to confirm whether or not such problems have occurred.