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Study: transgender bathroom laws make no difference to safety, privacy violations

Earlier this month, a federal judge allowed a lawsuit to move forward challenging the state law banning cities and counties from passing transgender-friendly bathroom rules and other anti-discrimination measures.

As that suit continues to wind its way through the courts and the state health plan reignites arguments over transgender rights, it’s worth your time to check out a recent study from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

The study, released last month, looks at localities in Massachusetts with and without ordinances related to transgender peoples’ access to public accommodations.

From the study:

Data come from public record requests of criminal incident reports related to assault, sex crimes, and voyeurism in public restrooms, locker rooms, and dressing rooms to measure safety and privacy violations in these spaces. This study finds that the passage of such laws is not related to the number or frequency of criminal incidents in these spaces. Additionally, the study finds that reports of privacy and safety violations in public restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms are exceedingly rare. This study provides evidence that fears of increased safety and privacy violations as a result of nondiscrimination laws are not empirically grounded.

Next month Massachusetts will hold the first-ever statewide popular vote on nondiscrimination protections for transgender people, deciding whether to uphold transgender protections in a 2016 law.

The study introduces some actual data into political debates – in Massachusetts, North Carolina and across the country – that have often been dominated by conjecture, anecdotes and hypotheticals.

“Opponents of public accommodations laws that include gender identity protections often claim that the laws leave women and children vulnerable to attack in public restrooms,” said Amira Hasenbush, a law and policy fellow at the Williams Institute and the study’s lead author. “But this study provides evidence that these incidents are rare and unrelated to the laws.”

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