RICHMOND, Va. — Advocates in Virginia for a North Carolina-style transgender bathroom law are urging Republican lawmakers to give their full support to the measure, but GOP leaders are showing little appetite for it and the state’s Democratic governor has pledged to veto it.
Social conservatives joined with Republican Del. Bob Marshall at a Capitol news conference Thursday to promote legislation that would generally prohibit individuals from using bathrooms in government-owned buildings that do not match their gender at birth. Marshall’s bill would also require public school principals to notify parents within 24 hours if a child requests to be recognized as a member of the opposite sex.
The legislation is similar to a new law in North Carolina that has consumed the state for months and scared off businesses and sporting events.
Marshall said parents around the state are concerned about protecting their children’s privacy and safety, especially in locker rooms at schools.
“Do parents want their 14-year-old daughters on the school swim team to take showers with 17-year-old biological males in a public school locker room?” Marshall asked.
But critics said the legislation is discriminatory. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has promised to veto the legislation, saying it would make Virginia less competitive when trying to lure new businesses. He said tech companies on a marketing trip to California last weekend specifically asked about the legislation.
Republicans control both chambers of the General Assembly, but do not have enough votes to override McAuliffe’s vetoes and have shown little appetite for the bill. As a result, House Speaker William J. Howell remarked that there would be no point in lawmakers spending their time on it.
House Republicans’ primary focus is on improving the state’s sluggish economy and boosts its education system, Howell noted.
“Candidly, Bob’s bill is a distraction from that,” he said.
Virginia is one of only two states with a governor’s race in 2017 and some Republicans don’t want to get bogged down in social issues that could hurt their chances on Election Day. Democrats have won every statewide election since 2009.
Marshall is a long-serving gadfly of the General Assembly who is often at odds with his party’s leadership and often sponsors bills with little chance of passage. But supporters of Marshall’s bathroom legislation, who included Republican National Committee member Cynthia Dunbar, warned GOP leaders not to be dismissive of this particular effort. They said there is widespread, bipartisan support among concerned parents and school employees.
“It’s time for men to be men and protect women and children,” said Terry Beatley, president of the socially conservative Hosea Initiative.
The news conference was punctuated with an awkward moment when Theodore Kahn, a 32-year-old transgender man, asked Marshall and his supporters which bathroom Kahn should use.
“Not here,” Marshall responded.
Kahn later told reporters he wanted to show that Marshall’s bill would make it illegal for Kahn to use public restrooms and “doesn’t make any sense.”
“They called me ‘sir,’ I present as male, I can’t use the woman’s room,” Kahn said. “I’m male. I use the men’s room.”