A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that an advocacy group has compared to North Carolina’s House Bill 2.
House Bill 1612, which state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) introduced on Tuesday, would prohibit people from entering “a restroom or other facility designated for use by members of the opposite sex.” The measure, which is also known as the Physical Privacy Act, would also require public school principals to notify a student’s parent or guardian within 24 hours if “the child requests to be recognized or treated as the opposite sex, to use a name or pronoun inconsistent with the child’s sex, or to use a restroom or other facility designated for the opposite sex.”
James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, said in a statement that HB 1612 “would cause immediate harm to our transgender community and economy.” He also noted North Carolina’s economy lost hundreds of millions of dollars after then-Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB 2 last March.
“The General Assembly has real issues to tackle when it convenes next Wednesday and Equality Virginia calls on the leadership of both parties to declare this harmful and unnecessary bill dead on arrival,” said Parrish.
House Bill 2 not only banned trans people from using public restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity, but prohibited local municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances and other measures that include increasing the minimum wage higher than what the state offers.
The Charlotte City Council last month agreed to a moratorium on its nondiscrimination ordinance as part of a deal to repeal HB 2 in a special session of the Republican-controlled North Carolina Legislature. Lawmakers adjourned without taking action on it.
“It has caused just incredible harm to the state of North Carolina,” said Cathryn Oakley of the Human Rights Campaign on Wednesday as she and Parrish spoke to reporters on a conference call about HB 1612. “That is certainly something we don’t want to see here in Virginia.”
Oakley noted HB 1612 is different than HB 2 because it contains a so-called parental notification that she described as “an outlier.” The Physical Privacy Act also contains a provision that would compel a government-owned facility to pay civil damages to anyone who is found to have suffered physical or emotional distress because a person uses a sex-segregated facility based on their gender identity.
“There is an actual enforcement provision spelled out here,” Oakley told the Blade.
HB 1612 is among the so-called “bathroom bills” that advocates expect state legislatures will debate this year.
Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick is among those who are urging lawmakers in his state to approve a proposal that would require trans people to use bathrooms that are consistent with the gender listed on their birth certificates. Parrish noted to reporters during the conference call that Virginia lawmakers in 2016 killed a bill that would have required people to use public restrooms based on their “anatomical sex.”
“We are anticipating seeing bills like these crop up in states across the country,” said Oakley. “They are ill-advised and discriminatory in every single state.”
Parrish told the Blade that he expects HB 1612 will go before committee as early as next week.
“We hope this bill is dead on arrival,” he said.
Brian Coy, a spokesperson for Gov. Terry McAuliffe, on Wednesday said the governor would veto HB 1612.
“Governor McAuliffe has been clear that he will veto any bill that restricts the rights of Virginians based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Coy in a statement to GayRVA. “As we saw in North Carolina, these bills don’t just hamper civil rights — they kill jobs. The governor is hopeful that Republicans in the General Assembly will drop these counterproductive bills and turn their focus toward building a stronger and more equal Virginia economy.”
Oakley added some states may look to North Carolina as an “example” as opposed to “a cautionary scale” when it comes to trans people accessing public restrooms.
Marshall has yet to return the Blade’s request for comment on his bill and criticisms of it.
Grimm case to go before Supreme Court this year
The U.S. Supreme Court later this year will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit that Gavin Grimm, a trans student at Gloucester County High School, filed against his school district’s bathroom policy.
Grimm alleges the Gloucester County School District’s policy that prohibits him from using the boys restroom or locker room because they are not consistent with his “biological gender” is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. He also contends the regulation violates Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits schools receiving federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex.
The Obama administration last May told public schools that Title IX requires them to allow trans students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. It remains unclear whether this guidance will remain in place once President-elect Trump takes place.