Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are once again trying to criminalize transgender people with a pair of bills that would bolster criminal penalties for “trespassing” in a public restroom.
The bills were introduced a week after the GOP-majority legislature passed a so-called repeal of the infamous anti-transgender HB 2 law. Advocates criticized the effort as a “fake repeal” and called it “HB 2.0” This week the NCAA announced it will lift a boycott on championship games in the state, while advocates have called the NCAA’s decision “hypocritical.”
One of the Republican co-sponsors has already removed his name from the “trespassing” legislation after an outcry from constituents opposed to the discriminatory measure.
HB 562 and companion bill SB 668, sponsored by Rep. Brenden Jones (R-Columbus) and state Sen. Danny Earl Britt (R-Robeson), would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor to trespass in a “multi‑occupancy bathroom, shower, or changing facility.”
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Under current law, being charged with trespassing in those facilities would be a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to ten days in jail. Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by up to 45 days in jail.
Jones said last week in a statement that he was drafting legislation that “strengthens existing law and offers even more protections” for people in public restrooms and other facilities.
“First, it will specifically state it is a second degree trespass for entering the restroom or changing room of the opposite sex; secondly, it would enhance the punishment from what is now,” Jones said.
The bill does not include language specifying that the increased penalties apply to trespassing in “opposite sex” bathrooms, nor does it mention transgender people. But Amy Bright, executive director of grassroots advocacy group New Greenville, told WNCT that the GOP legislation once again targets the LGBTQ community, and is potentially more harmful than HB 2.
“The way the bill is written basically says that anybody in any bathroom at any time can be told to leave, and if they don’t, they’re guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor,” Bright said. “We have to start re-framing this debate, and putting some humanity to it. Look I don’t want a pedophile in the bathroom anymore than anyone else does.”
Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Pitt), originally a co-sponsor of HB 562, said in a statement that the bill was introduced due to the perception that lawmakers were “soft on sexual predators” after the repeal of HB 2, reported WNCT.
“This just reinforces that this was not the intention whatsoever,” Murphy said. “I worked too hard and long to get different factions together on HB 2 to let that work be compromised. We are in a good place now and the intention is for us to stay there.”
But on Thursday, Murphy announced that he was removing his name from a bill that had caused “confusion and controversy.” While Murphy did not mention HB 562 in the statement, the lawmaker’s name has since been removed from the list of co-sponsors.
“In the spirit of good will, I have asked my name to be removed from it as I was not the lead sponsor,” Murphy wrote on Facebook. “I am not too proud to admit that I was mistaken in doing so and a decision that I regret. Being only human I still continue to learn. I thank those who brought these issues to my attention.”
Murphy’s announcement came just hours after an exchange with a constituent on the representative’s Facebook page about the bill.
Bright told Rewire in an email that Murphy removing his name from the anti-transgender legislation was “right thing to do.”
“This bill is ridiculously vague and could be used against anyone maliciously,” Bright said. “I would reiterate that we need to bring compassion and humanity to this debate.”