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Transgender Rights Activist Criticizes Measure To Repeal N.C. Bathroom Bill


Now we turn to Ames Simmons. He's director of transgender policy at Equality North Carolina and joins us from Durham. Hi there.

AMES SIMMONS: Thank you for having me, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What specifically do you object to in this new law?

SIMMONS: There are many things to object to. Among other things, this law restricts local governments from being able to put into law protections for their residents in private employment practices or public accommodations. It also keeps them from ever being able to pass laws that affect restrooms, showers or changing facilities for residents within their municipalities.

SHAPIRO: But it does remove the requirement that transgender people use the bathrooms that conform to the gender on their birth certificate. Is that at least an improvement?

SIMMONS: This law is just a different kind of bad from the one that you're talking about. It does remain important that cities be able to pass laws if they see fit in order to protect their transgender residents from, for example, having to worry about confrontation in the bathrooms. And we know from studies that transgender folks are more likely to be the victim of harassment and violence in bathrooms and not others.

SHAPIRO: Can you tell me about how trans people who you know or how you yourself have changed your practices because of HB2 and whether you expect you'll be able to go back to what you used to do with this new replacement bill?

SIMMONS: The replacement bill is coming from the same place of animus against LGBTQ people that HB2 was coming from, so I don't know that it sends any kind of message to trans people that we are any safer than before. I have found myself that I think twice before I drink water with my lunch, for example, so that I just don't have to worry about using public restrooms. And we know that that's true for as many as two-thirds of transgender North Carolinians here.

SHAPIRO: What about the fact that the ban on local nondiscrimination ordinances expires in 2020? So this is not a permanent provision.

SIMMONS: 2020 is a long way away. So that's almost four years from now. And when you're a transgender person who's having to worry about their own safety, who's having to worry about facing violence and discrimination when they set foot outside our homes, four years is a long time to wait.

SHAPIRO: And so will you urge businesses and sporting associations and others to continue boycotting the state as people did after HB2?

SIMMONS: I know folks who have family members who have been personally affected by businesses that are not coming to North Carolina. And it's only reasonable for businesses to want to provide an environment that is free of discrimination. So I don't want those families to continue to be hurt. We do want to provide a state that businesses want to come to, that they can feel confident that their employees will have an environment free of discrimination.

SHAPIRO: It sounds like on the one hand, you don't want to encourage a boycott that could keep jobs from coming to North Carolina, but on the other hand, you're not comfortable with encouraging businesses to come to a state that has this law that you view as discriminatory.

SIMMONS: The responsibility isn't on the LGBTQ community to figure out how to solve the problem that Moore and Berger created in our state when they passed HB2. They are the ones that need to come to a way to fully and cleanly repeal HB2 so that business will come back to our state.

SHAPIRO: The Democratic governor was elected on a pledge to repeal HB2. He very narrowly won the election. Do you feel that he kept his promise, or do you feel betrayed today?

SIMMONS: Governor Cooper said this afternoon that he believes that this law catches North Carolina law up to where the people are, and our response is that it's only catching up some of the people, not the LGBTQ community, and that's what we need now.

SHAPIRO: Ames Simmons is director of transgender policy at Equality North Carolina. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

SIMMONS: Thank you for having me, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.