US Episcopal Church leadership calls for repeal of North Carolina transgender law

TEC Presiding Bishop Michael CurryReuters

Leaders of The Episopal Church in the United States have spoken out against laws that restrict access of transgender people to public bathrooms and other facilities.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry says in a letter to The Episcopal Church that a new law in North Carolina, the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, has "decimated the civil rights and God-given dignity of transgender people."

In the letter, written jointly with Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, he cites Matthew's Gospel: "Jesus tells us to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves, and he tells us over and over again not to be afraid." 

Instead, laws such as this one, known as House Bill Two or HB2, is an example where fear has got the better of people, he says. 

"This age-old cycle of fear and hatred plays out again and again in our broken world, in sickening and shocking events like the massacre targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Orlando, but also in the rules we make and the laws we pass," he writes.

"North Carolina is not the only place where fear has gotten the better of us. Lawmakers in other jurisdictions have also threatened to introduce legislation that would have us believe that protecting the rights of transgender people - even a right as basic as going to the bathroom - somehow puts the rest of us at risk."

The official title of HB2 is An Act to Provide for Single-sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom and Changing Facilities in Schools and Public Agencies and to Create Statewide Consistency in Regulation of Employment and Public Accommodations. It was passed earlier this year. Supporters regard it as "common sense" while critics complain that it is anti-LGBT.

The law stipulates that in government buildings, individuals may only use restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. In North Carolina this rules out all transgender people who have not had sex reassignment surgery.

In response to the widespread criticism, some North Carolina lawmakers have been considering revisions, according to the Charlotte Observer reports.

The executive council of The Episcopal Church is among the critics of the law, having passed a resolution backing laws that prevent discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.

Bishop Curry, who is calling on North Carolina to repeal HB2, says: "The need is urgent, because laws like the one in North Carolina prey on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities - some of the very same people who were targeted in the Orlando attack."

In a 2011 survey, 78 per cent of transgender people said that they had been bullied or harassed in childhood, 41 per cent said they had attempted suicide, 35 per cent had been assaulted, and 12 per cent had suffered a sexual assault.

"Almost half of transgender people who responded to the survey said they had suffered job discrimination, and almost a fifth had lost housing or been denied health care due to their gender identity or expression," he writes.