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N.Y. Times tracks the long path to bathroom politics before House Bill 2

HB2With leaders in Charlotte perhaps considering a vote to repeal the city’s transgender-friendly bathroom ordinance tonight, The New York Times offered an in-depth look this weekend at the long path to the bathroom controversy that exploded in North Carolina this year.

Here’s the takeaway: It’s a fight that’s been in the making for several years, before President Obama’s U.S. Department of Education sided with a transgender student in Palatine, Ill., last year in a fight over school bathroom use.

And even before the federal agency handed down guidelines in 2014 that declared the U.S. education law’s anti-discrimination requirements requires that transgender students be allowed to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity.

It’s also, clearly , an issue that could have major social and financial implications for North Carolina’s schools and universities.

From the Times:

How a clash over bathrooms, an issue that appeared atop no national polls, became the next frontier in America’s fast-moving culture wars — and ultimately landed on the desk of the president — involves an array of players, some with law degrees, others still in high school.

The sweeping directive to public schools seemed to come out of nowhere. In fact, it was the product of years of study inside the government and a highly orchestrated campaign by advocates for gay and transgender people. Mindful of the role “Whites Only’’ bathrooms played in the civil rights battles of more than half a century ago, they have been maneuvering behind the scenes to press federal agencies, and ultimately Mr. Obama, to address a question that has roiled many school districts: Should those with differing anatomies share the same bathrooms?

As the paper explains, the fight over a transgender student’s bathroom use in Palatine, Ill., spurred HB2-like measures in other GOP controlled states, although none were ultimately successful until Gov. Pat McCrory signed the mega-controversial HB2 into law in late March.

The ruling in Palatine reverberated across the Midwest. In the South Dakota Legislature, Republicans were so alarmed by the situation in Palatine that, in February, they passed a measure restricting bathroom access for transgender students — similar to the one that later became law in North Carolina. Opponents sent transgender South Dakotans to meet with Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, and they believe that influenced his veto of the bill.

Among the visitors was Kendra Heathscott, who was 10 when she first met Mr. Daugaard, then the executive director of a social services organization that treats children with behavioral problems. In his office to lobby against the bathroom measure, she reintroduced herself. “He remembered me as a little boy,” she said.

In Wisconsin last year, another Republican-sponsored bathroom bill began to work its way through the Legislature, but was beaten back by transgender rights activists, many of them teenagers.

In rural north-central Florida, a retired veterinarian and cattle rancher named Harrell Phillips was alarmed one evening in March, when his 17-year-old son reported over dinner that he had encountered a transgender boy in the high school bathroom.

“I marched myself down to the principal,” said Dr. Phillips, who believes that “you are born into a sex that God chose you to be.”

The principal, and later the school superintendent, citing advice from lawyers, said there was nothing they could do. So Dr. Phillips turned to his best friend, a lawyer in Jacksonville, who introduced him to Roger Gannam of Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based Christian organization. Mr. Gannam represented Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses last year.

Mr. Gannam had just helped block a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance in Jacksonville, with an argument religious conservatives have been lately using to powerful effect: It would endanger women and young girls by allowing men — and even sexual predators — to pose as transgender and enter women’s bathrooms.

Ocala, where Dr. Phillips’s son attends school, is now embroiled in a fight much like the one that engulfed Palatine. The school board, at Mr. Gannam’s prodding, voted in April to require transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex.

Read the entire article over at The New York Times‘ site. In the meantime, stay tuned for updates on the Charlotte debate over the city ordinance.

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