Editorial: ‘Bathroom bill’ is step in wrong direction

  • FILE- In this Aug. 23, 2007, file photo, a sign marks the entrance to a gender-neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt. Nearly all of the nation's 20 largest cities, including New York City, have local or state nondiscrimination laws that allow transgender people to use whatever bathroom they identify with, though a debate has raged around the topic nationwide. Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, signed an executive order on Monday, March 7, 2016, that guarantees people access to single-sex facilities consistent with their gender identity at city facilities, including offices, pools and recreation centers, without the need to show identification or any other proof of gender. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File) Toby Talbot—AP

  • North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory makes remarks during an interview at the Governor's mansion in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, April 12, 2016. McCrory says he wants to change a new state law that prevents people from suing over discrimination in state court, but he's not challenging a measure regarding bathroom access for transgender people. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) Gerry Broome—AP

  • A sticker that reads, "Keep Locker Rooms Safe," is worn by a person supporting a bill that would eliminate Washington's new rule allowing transgender people use gender-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms in public buildings consistent with their gender identity, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, outside a Washington Senate hearing room at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren—AP

Published: 5/4/2016 7:00:12 PM

As a prelude to Northampton’s Pride Festival Saturday, Franklin County residents can join in the celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community with what's being called the "Gay 5K" and 1-mile walk starting at the Town Common in Greenfield Friday evening.

These events not only foster equality and tout the value of diversity, but also offer a refreshing contrast to what Americans are witnessing elsewhere in the battle over bathrooms.

We’re referring to the silly and blatantly discriminatory efforts against transgender and gay people when it comes to using public restrooms. This attempt by lawmakers segregating and setting back civil rights gained national attention with North Carolina’s “bathroom bill.” Under the pretext of protecting women and children from predators, legislators pushed a law that makes it illegal for anyone to enter a public restroom not in line with the gender on his or her birth certificate, regardless of sexual identity.

This might simply be fodder for a bit of bathroom humor, if this kind of absurdity wasn’t aimed at building barriers rather than taking them down. These so-called protections are built upon misguided perceptions and outright lies.

They ignore the facts, which show there is no increase in sexual assaults in places where bathroom access is based on personal choice and identity. And it’s not transgender or gay individuals who are the monsters here; too often, they are the victims of ridicule and physical assaults. 

“For decades, all trans people just used the bathroom that they thought would be best,” says Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in a recent Newsweek article. “Now we’re all looking over our shoulders.”

Along with creating unnecessary stress and risks for transgender and gay individuals, these laws raise this practical question: Are states prepared to ask for birth certificates at restroom doors to make sure no one is illegally sneaking in? 

No wonder social media sites are filled with messages that simply say

Luckily, there are plenty of people who see the absurdity of what’s going on. In North Carolina’s case, economic pressure is being applied by entertainers and other businesses through cancellation of performances or conferences. The retail department store giant, Target, announced a transgender-inclusive bathroom policy, leading to more cheers than jeers.

What all Americans should be focusing on is ending discrimination for all. In Massachusetts that means having the House and Senate pass legislation that protects transgender people in public places, including public restrooms.

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