North Carolina's high-profile new law preventing the use of certain restrooms by people who don't identify with their biological sex is already proving challenging for schools and controversial with students. As news broke Monday that the American Civil Liberties Union had filed a lawsuit against what it considers discriminatory legislation, people on private and public college campuses were already sounding off.
"It is important to understand that this bill is not just transphobic, but also possibly a violation of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Our fellow North Carolinians and classmates are having their rights stripped from them by a bill that allowed for no debate or input by trans people or workers it affects," wrote the Duke Chronicle. "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us."
The legislation, which began as House Bill 2 and was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory late Wednesday, overturns all local ordinances protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination. It also requires government facilities — like publicly funded universities — to allow people into multiple-occupancy restrooms and locker rooms based on their birth certificate, not gender identity. Sponsors said the bill was aimed at protecting people's privacy, though its application could cause institutions to alter their rules concerning LGBT students, the Charlotte Observer reported.
The University of North Carolina told Inside Higher Ed it was looking into what the new rules meant, but it planned to make sure its system was welcoming and inclusive. “We are still digesting, studying and trying to understand the law,” Charlotte campus spokeswoman Buffie Stephens said. “I think everybody is.”
Inside Higher Ed noted that private schools in the state, like Wake Forest University, issued statements pointing out that the law does not apply to them.
Many students, meanwhile, were outspoken in their condemnations of the legislation. Young people joined a crowd protesting the law last week outside McCrory's mansion, according to the Technician, the campus paper for North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Among them was Qasima Wideman, an N.C. State sophomore majoring in Africana studies.
“This bill rolls back decades of hard-won progress and will harm our whole state. It undermines municipal democratic control, advancements in anti-discrimination policy, and further prohibits wage increases,” she said.
Some students also took issue with the way the bill suddenly slipped through the Legislature. According to ABC News, it was approved by lawmakers and signed by McCrory within 12 hours. "He just rushed everything through so quickly. It was kind of sketchy — what kind of governor signs a bill at 10:30 at night?” UNC freshman Brennan Lewis told the Daily Tarheel.
There are advocates on both sides, however. When UNC's Charlotte campus changed its policy last March to allow transgender students to choose which bathroom to use, some students were resistant.
"It's like kind of weird to see a dude go in a girl's bathroom and you know it's a dude," Shannon Brown told WCNC.
Others were surprised simply because they were uninformed. “I actually did not know our school had it," student Harrison Mull told WBTV at the time.