The Letcher County Fiscal Court is getting involved in the national debate over whether transgender citizens should be allowed to use bathroom facilities that match their gender identities.
The fiscal court — the county’s legislative body — voted this week to direct Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton to determine whether it can formally declare that Letcher County’s government will not comply with any law or regulation that opens public restrooms to transgendered people.
The action came at the end of the court’s May meeting at the request of District One Magistrate Bobby Howard, whose district includes most of the City of Whitesburg. Howard’s request came one week after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it had filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn North Carolina’s controversial new law restricting transgender bathroom access. The Justice Department also warned last week that any similar measures elsewhere in the country could also face challenges on grounds they violate federal nondiscrimination rules.
Howard told the court Monday night that many of his constituents are outraged by the federal government’s lawsuit against North Caro- lina as well as a directive by President Barack Obama’s administration that public schools must allow students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.
Howard insisted the fiscal court initiate an ordinance stating that Letcher County will not comply with any law that opens public restrooms to transgendered people. As of Tuesday night, the state of Kentucky had passed no law concerning transgender bathroom use.
When Howard first brought up the issue transgender bathrooms on Monday night, Letcher Judge/ Executive Jim Ward laughed and told Howard he wasn’t certain what he was talking about. But after Howard’s request was clarified, Ward said he also does not approve of mixed bathrooms and was joined in his view by the rest of the court.
Hatton believes the court could adopt a resolution stating its opposition to the Justice Department’s lawsuit and Obama’s directive for public schools. He said he would examine the law and make a recommendation at the court’s next meeting.
What Is A Transgender?
A transgender man is a person who was born female but identifies as a man. Likewise, the sex of a transgender woman was determined to be male at birth but the gender identity is that of a woman.
Historians trace the acknowledgment of what is now known as transgenderism to as early as 1503 BC, when Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut wore male clothing as she ascended to the throne. In 1775, says the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, flamboyant cross-dressing actress Charlotte Clark was the first openly transgendered person in modern times. According to the network, Karl Friendrich Otto Westphal published the first medical paper on transexuality in 1869.
If historians are correct, transgenderism was with us for at least 3,518 years before the question of where transgender men and women go to the bathroom became a national issue. That on March 23, 2016, when the North Carolina General Assembly held a one-day special session to pass a law liming access to public restrooms for transgender people and prohibiting local governments from adopting antidiscrimination ordinances.
The North Carolina law was passed in response to a vote taken in February in which the Charlotte City Council voted to expand protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity to gay, lesbian, and transgender customers at city businesses and buildings. The Charlotte ordinance included a clause allowing people to choose restrooms corresponding to the gender to which they identify.
This week, violinist Itzhak Perlman became the latest of a series of renowned musicians to cancel a North Carolina performance in protest of the state’s new law limiting antidiscrimination policies.
Perlman canceled his performance schedule for Raleigh this week (May 18) in a Facebook post. In the post, Perlman says he has spent a lifetime opposing discrimination toward those with physical disabilities and as a vocal advocate of treating all people equally. When he was a child, Perlman contracted polio, and learned to walk using crutches.
Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and the rock group Boston are among other musical performers who have canceled their shows because of the law.
Cyndi Lauper and comedian Louis C.K. have pledged to donate profits from their shows to the equal-rights group Equality North Carolina.
President Obama’s order that public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity has drawn protests from some top Kentucky Republicans.
Gov. Matt Bevin called it an “absurd federal overreach.” Bevin said the federal government lacks constitutional authority to interfere in local schools’ bathroom policies.
He accused Obama of “ intentionally dividing America by threatening to sue or withhold funding from our cash-strapped public schools if they do not agree with his personal opinion on policies that remain squarely in their jurisdiction.”
Bevin said his office was looking into options to ensure the issue is decided locally.
The federal guidance does not impose any new legal requirements. But offi- cials said it’s meant to clarify expectations of school districts that receive funding from the federal government.
I rene Sizemore, a 16-year-old sophomore at a public school in Louisville, praised Obama’s directive.
“ I appreciate what they’re doing,” Sizemore said. “ It will definitely put some pressure on the schools to help transgender students like myself.”
Last year, Kentucky lawmakers considered a bill to ban transgender students from choosing which bathroom to use at public schools.
The bill would not have forced transgender students to use the bathroom of their biological gender. But it would have required them to use a faculty bathroom or separate bathroom. It passed the Senate but died in the House. The issue did not surface this year.
Many bills popping up in state legislatures to ban transgender bathroom use were crafted by the Liberty Counsel, a law firm founded by Mat Staver. It’s the same law firm that represented Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court issued a ruling last year effectively legalizing gay marriage nationwide.
Staver said he’s working to craft a federal lawsuit to challenge the new directive.
Compiled from reports by Mountain Eagle writer William Farley and the Associated Press reports.