Local News

Enforcing HB2 bathroom rule a low priority

Posted April 26, 2016 6:30 p.m. EDT
Updated April 26, 2016 6:32 p.m. EDT

— State lawmakers held an emergency session last month to head off a pending ordinance in Charlotte that would have allowed transgender people to use public bathrooms that align with their gender identity, but local authorities say there's little inclination to enforce the new state law.

The highest-profile provision of House Bill 2, which was introduced, approved and signed into law in less than 12 hours, requires people to use public bathrooms that match the gender listed on their birth certificate. But the measure contains no language about how police and prosecutors should enforce the law.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said she has been studying the bill to figure out how she would prosecute a violator.

"What most people are struggling with is, how do you enforce it?" Freeman said. "There is no criminal penalty provided in that bill, so it's an open question."

Raleigh leaders have given up on trying to enforce the law, spokesman Damien Graham said.

"The law doesn't specifically speak to enforcement or penalty, so we are left at the point of not figuring out how to enforce this," Graham said. "We don't have the resources to post police officers outside bathrooms checking birth certificates."

Officers will respond to complaints under House Bill 2, he said, but it's unclear what would happen after that.

"The only thing we're left to do it respond if there is a concern or a complaint, just as we would any other issue. But the law doesn't speak to the penalties, so we're not sure how we would penalize that person," he said.

Freeman said other laws could come into play in situations where someone is in a bathroom that doesn't match their birth gender, such as trespassing. But overall, she said she doesn't foresee House Bill 2 as being a priority for police.

"This is not a law right now that there seems to be any clear direction on how we're going to move forward with it," she said.