LGBT advocates are taking their campaign over transgender rights up a notch, by pressuring the hundreds of businesses that have declared opposition to House Bill 2 to pledge transgender people will not be hurt or harassed by other customers on their property.
The Charlotte-based Freedom Center for Social Justice says the “Yes, You Can Go!” campaign is pushing companies to be more public in their opposition to a state law that has drawn federal condemnation. Window stickers that say “Yes, you can go” and “Inclusive Restrooms” are being given out as part of the campaign.
Under HB2, transgender people who have not taken surgical and legal steps to change the gender noted on their birth certificates have no legal right under state law to use public restrooms of the gender with which they identify.
“It’s important not just to say ‘we’re inclusive’ but to say ‘we’re safe’ for transgender people,” said campaign organizer AJ Williams of the Freedom Center.
“If a transgender person uses the restroom at your business, are they safe? Will they be confronted by other customers, harassed or even attacked? If there is a risk, then saying you’re inclusive is not enough.”
The campaign kicked off just days after the Rowan-Salisbury Schools decided to let students carry Mace and pepper spray to school starting in August, with one school board member suggesting in an interview that weapons could be needed in restrooms if HB2 were struck down by the courts.
“There has always been some question of how HB2 could be enforced,” said Williams. “I guess now we see that our schoolkids will be enforcing it with Mace and pepper spray against transgender people.”
Hundreds of businesses in the country have publicly denounced HB2, including CEOs for major local employers like Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Groups that support HB2 say 300 companies back the law, but less than one-third of them have allowed their names to be released to the media.
Bishop Tonyia Rawls, founder of the Freedom Center, admitted the new campaign is an “unapologetic” attempt to get businesses to be more visible in support for transgender people. Organizations and places of worship are also being encouraged to sign up, she said.
Supporters of HB2 claim the law is needed to maintain privacy and safety in public restrooms. However, Rawls said there has never been a documented case in the country of a transgender person attacking someone in a bathroom or engaging in other criminal activity.
However, she says there is ample proof of harassment of transgender people in public restrooms. The most highly visible local case was last year when transgender woman and N.C. Democratic Party activist Janice Covington Allison was escorted out by police when she tried to use a restroom at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center. Someone also recorded video of Allison in the restroom and posted it on the Internet.
In another instance, a Central Piedmont Community College transgender student, Andraya Williams, was detained by campus police in 2014 after using a women’s restroom on campus. The student said she was kicked out of school but was later told she could return to classes. However, she has yet to re-enroll.
Andraya Williams attended the news conference Thursday to advocate for “Yes, You Can Go.”
“I have used the men’s restroom since HB2 was passed and been kicked out,” Andraya Williams told reporters. “So where am I supposed to go to the bathroom?”