Opinion: The Core HB2 Argument That Won't Hold Water

'Bathroom predators' exist. But they have no connection to LGBT laws
Media Matters for America

First off, law enforcement agencies in North America have reported multiple cases of men dressing as women and either peeping on or sexually assaulting women, or both. This is true.

But this is also true, and it’s a point either lost on or ignored by those who support House Bill 2: There’s no credible evidence that any of them committed their crimes by taking advantage of laws that allows transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice; and we know about their crimes because law enforcement arrested them because their offenses were and are illegal—regardless of any laws that allow transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice.

The primary argument for the so-called “bathroom section” of HB2 is that the Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance would have enabled sexual predators to use the transgender protections as license to enter women’s restrooms more easily. There’s no evidence this has ever happened.

Supporters of HB2 typically cite particular incidents as a rebuttal, especially to a recent video from the liberal group Media Matters for America and Carlos Maza, one of its researchers: See, this does happen.

The incidents are worth looking at one at a time.

Calhoun, Georgia, March 2010: Norwood Smith Burnes, 51, is caught wearing women’s clothes and undressing in front of children in a Wal-Mart women’s restroom. Police charge him with public indecency, disorderly conduct, and criminal trespass.

Everett, Washington, March 2012: Taylor Buehler, 18, is spotted wearing a wig and bra in a women’s restroom at a community college. Buehler tells officers he’s a suspect in an earlier peeping incident at the college.

Palmdale, California, May 2013: Jason Pomare, 33, wears a wig and women’s clothing and uses a concealed camera to videotape women in a Macy’s department store restroom. He’s charged with six counts of unlawful use of a concealed camera for purposes of sexual gratification.

Woodbridge, Virginia, November 2015: Richard Rodriguez, 30, is caught using a camera to film women in restroom stalls at a shopping mall. He’s charged with three counts of unlawful filming of a non-consenting person and three counts of peeping.

In none of these cases was a law or ordinance in place allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice. They dressed as women. They went into women’s bathrooms. They were noticed, arrested, and charged. They would have been arrested and charged even with transgender protections for restroom use.

But what about Christopher Hambrook, a man from Montreal who sexually assaulted four females, including a five-year-old girl, over 12 years—the last two at a Toronto women’s shelter, where he claimed to be a transgender woman named Jessica? In 2014, a judge ordered him jailed indefinitely, leading Canadian conservatives to argue that a law that adds gender identity and expression to the list of protected classes in the Ontario Human Rights Code “allows heterosexual predators access to women in their most personal moments.”

Except that Hambrook committed his crimes between early 2002 and February 2012—and the provincial law, Toby’s Act, wasn’t passed until June 2012. Hambrook didn’t use a new law as license to commit sex crimes. He committed sex crimes. (And I don’t have the first problem with a life sentence, either. Prison is where this guy belongs.)

Which brings us to the one example that supporters of HB2 point to as evidence that bathroom laws enable sexual predators: the Seattle incident.

It happened in February. A man walked into a women’s restroom at a public swimming pool and took his shirt off. When staffers told him to leave, he said, “The law has changed, and I have a right to be here,” referring to a new Washington state regulation that allows transgender people access to bathrooms, shower and locker rooms according to their gender identity. The man left but returned when girls were changing for swim practice.

Staffers didn’t call police. The man was not arrested. So we don’t know definitively that the man was registering a protest against the new regulation.

But … sorry, no sale. The guy was not dressed as a woman. He did not claim to be transgender. His actions weren’t those of a pervert or sexual predator who wants to maintain the lowest possible profile to keep from getting caught.

This is someone who wanted to get caught so he could be heard saying that the law allowed him to be there—to, in other words, prove a political point by manufacturing the previously nonexistent problem, like someone who wants the beach to himself snorkeling around offshore with a dorsal fin on a stick. There’s no shark except the one this argument has jumped.

Categories: The Buzz