Bathroom Bills in the U.S.: State Laws and How They Work

Last updated February 26th, 2024

Bathroom bills (bathroom access laws) have become a controversial issue in the United States, sparking debates surrounding transgender identity and rights.

Bathroom access laws aim to regulate the use of public restrooms and other facilities in line with an individual's “gender of birth”, rather than their identified gender.

This article explores the background, opposition, and varying approaches to bathroom bills across different U.S. states.

What are Bathroom Bills?

Bathroom bills refer to legislation proposed at state level that seeks to restrict transgender individuals' access to public restrooms and changing facilities based on their gender identity.

The measures often require individuals to use facilities that correspond with the sex assigned to them at birth, as stated on their birth certificate, rather than their identified gender.

Public Opinion on Bathroom Bills

The controversy surrounding bathroom access laws largely stems from conflicting perspectives on gender identity. Supporters argue that the bills are necessary for privacy and safety, while opponents view them as discriminatory.

Support for bathroom bills

Below is an overview of the leading arguments for the use of bathroom access laws.

Protecting privacy

Supporters argue that bathroom bills help safeguard the privacy of cisgender individuals. They state that individuals with different biological characteristics may feel uncomfortable if someone of the opposite sex, according to their assigned sex at birth, enters their designated space.

Ensuring safety

Some advocates assert that bathroom access laws help prevent potential instances of harassment, assault, or voyeurism in public restrooms. They believe that allowing individuals to use facilities based on their gender identity might create opportunities for individuals with malicious intent.

Maintaining traditional values

Advocates also argue for preserving societal norms and traditional values. They believe that sex segregation in restrooms and other facilities has long been the accepted standard and should be maintained.

Opposition to bathroom bills

There are a number of reasons why many oppose the use of bathroom access laws:

Gender discrimination

Gender identity advocates argue that bathroom bills perpetuate discrimination against transgender individuals by denying them access to public facilities consistent with their lived gender.

Safety concerns

Opponents contend that such legislation presents significant challenges for transgender people who may be subjected to harassment or violence when forced to use facilities that do not align with their gender identity.

Violates federal law

Critics assert that bathroom bills violate Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. The courts have generally interpreted Title IX to protect transgender individuals, recognizing that policies discriminating against gender identity are in violation of federal law.

Transgender Birth Certificates and Bathroom Bills

One related aspect of the bathroom access law debate is the matter of transgender individuals' birth certificates.

Many states have strict requirements for changing the gender marker on a birth certificate. These often require surgical procedures or other extensive documentation.

This approach poses challenges for individuals seeking to align their legal identification with their transgender identity. This can exacerbate the impact of bathroom bills that are enforced through birth certificate gender markers.

Bathroom Bills in Different States

Bathroom bills have gained considerable attention in recent years, spurring a range of legislative activity across various states.

Other states have introduced bathroom bills that have either been defeated or remain pending. These bills often generate extensive public debate and varying degrees of support or opposition.

North Carolina bathroom bill

One notable example is the controversial HB2 law passed in North Carolina in 2016. This law required individuals to use public restrooms corresponding to the sex stated on their birth certificates.

This law faced significant backlash, leading to economic boycotts and legal challenges, and was ultimately repealed in 2017.

Utah bathroom bill

In contrast, in 2017, Utah legislators passed a comprehensive law that aimed to protect both religious liberties and LGBTQ rights.

The legislation prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and housing, while also explicitly safeguarding transgender individuals' access to public restrooms.

Bathroom access laws by state

State K-12 Schools Government-Owned Spaces Colleges & Government-Owned Spaces Year Passed
Alabama ✔️ 2022
American Samoa
Arizona c
Arkansas ✔️ 2023
District of Columbia
Florida ✔️ ✔️ 2023
Idaho ✔️ 2023
Iowa ✔️ 2023
Kentucky ✔️ 2023
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota ✔️ ✔️ 2023
Northern Mariana Islands
Oklahoma ✔️ 2022
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee ✔️ 2021
U.S. Virgin Islands
West Virginia

Data current as of 01.30.2024