‘Bathroom bill’ foes ask House lawmakers to protect privacy

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/05/24/bathroom-bill-foes-ask-house-lawmakers-to-protect-privacy/

BOSTON – Opponents hit Beacon Hill Tuesday to rally against proposals that would mandate access to public bathrooms or changing rooms for individuals based on the gender of their choice, two weeks after the state Senate overwhelmingly passed a so-called bathroom bill and in anticipation of a vote as soon as Wednesday on a different version of the legislation in the House of Representatives.

Tuesday’s rally, led by the conservative-leaning Massachusetts Family Institute, drew more than 100 demonstrators who heard from several speakers, including a 12-year-old middle school girl. They focused their remarks on protecting their rights to privacy.

The group decided to hold the event to try and convince members of the House that a large chunk of the general public still has concerns with the bill, according to Andrew Beckwith, the Family Institute president. He pointed to the results of a recent Rasmussen Reports national poll that showed 55 percent of parents with school-age children oppose “allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms of the opposite biological sex,” with another 13 percent remain undecided.

The poll results also showed that only 24 percent of Americans believe it should be up to the federal government to dictate bathroom and changing room policies at local elementary and secondary schools, with just 25 percent agreeing that it should be up to states. Setting such policies at the local level drew the most support, at 41 percent, Rasmussen said.

At the State House, the middle-schooler who spoke, Summer Stubblebine, drew cheers from supporters when she criticized lawmakers who back opening sex-segregated public facilities to people who decide their gender identity differs from their anatomy.

“The fact that I have to march all the way down to Boston to the State House to plead with a room full of adults not to let boys into the girls bathroom is just shocking,” she said. “I always thought that laws were created to protect us.”

“Grown-ups are suggesting that it’s okay for boys to change in the girls’ locker room if they wake up one day and feel like being a girl,” she said. “Does this mean that I can come into school next week and feel like being a cat, and demand that litter boxes be placed in all of the bathrooms?”

Parent Ashley King of Westford, who works as a teacher, said she “cannot imagine” being threatened with arrest or a fine if she elected to “tell a biological man to get out of the bathroom that my daughter is using.”

A chief concern with the proposed law is that it wouldn’t require men to provide proof or document that they truly identify as women, Beckwith said.

“If men say they identify as female they can violate the private space that has been reserved for our wives, our mothers and our daughters,” he said. “Many men, regardless of whether they have gender issues, can take advantage of this type of law and go into what should be a safe place for women and children.”

He added that the dismissal of these types of concerns by senators who voted in favor of the bill was “shameful.”

Beckwith also recalled stories from parents who have chosen to voice their concerns over the legislation but were “disparaged and condemned by advocates of this bill.”

“In the past several weeks I have heard from numerous mothers and fathers who have been intimidated into silence about this issue by transgender activists and left-wing legislators who have attempted to bully and shame people into conforming with their radical and extreme agenda,” he noted. “But I’m proud to stand here today and tell you that we won’t be silenced.”

Following the event, Beckwith said his group’s focus is aimed at “making sure this bill never gets out of the House,” in comments to reporters.

Unlike the Senate measure, the House’s version includes language instructing the state Attorney General Maura Healey to craft specific penalties for those who attempt to enter bathrooms and changing rooms for illicit purposes. Healey has been outspoken in support of the Senate measure, suggesting at one point that women and girls who are uncomfortable about sharing a bathroom with a transgender person should “hold it” instead.

Both versions of the bill constitute a “zero-sum privacy game,” Beckwith said, maintaining that if the proposal becomes law, it wouldn’t be illegal for a man to venture into a women’s locker room “and get undressed, and watch a woman undress.”

Beckwith also doubted the notion that authorities would be able to prove that people trying to abuse the law weren’t definitively transgender.

“The way the law is written, you don’t need any medical documentation – you don’t need hormone therapy and you don’t need surgery – you simply have to identify verbally, and it doesn’t even have to be a consistent identification,” he said. “So one of the main problems with this bill is the definition of gender identity.”

“It’s extremely broad and impossible to enforce,” Beckwith said.

Beckwith pointed to a controversial law recently enacted in North Carolina, which requires persons to use single-sex changing rooms and bathrooms that are consistent with their anatomy. While the Tar Heel State is battling with the U.S. Justice Department over the legality of the law, Beckwith suggested the measure is a suitable way to handle the issue.

Dracut state Rep. Colleen Garry, a Democrat, has introduced a bill similar to the North Carolina law. However, her bill is unlikely to reach the floor for a vote in the Democratically controlled chamber.

“It’s really the only objective way to preserve everyone’s rights,” Beckwith said of Garry’s proposal.