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Gender identity inclusive nondiscrimination laws do not jeopardize restroom safety
2018-09-12

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Conducted in Massachusetts, a first-of-its-kind study assesses the validity of claims that gender-identity protections lead to privacy and safety violations in restrooms.

A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that Massachusetts' public accommodations nondiscrimination laws that include gender identity do not affect the number or frequency of criminal incidents in restrooms, locker rooms or changing rooms. In addition, reports of privacy and safety violations in these places are exceedingly rare.

Researchers used criminal report data from several Massachusetts localities to assess differences in the rates of crime in areas with and without public accommodation laws that included gender identity protections. Results showed that immediately after the laws' passage, there were fewer incidents of privacy and safety violations in places with gender-identity inclusive public accommodations laws than in comparable areas without the laws.

"Opponents of public accommodations laws that include gender identity protections often claim that the laws leave women and children vulnerable to attack in public restrooms," said lead author Amira Hasenbush, a law and policy fellow at the Williams Institute. "But this study provides evidence that these incidents are rare and unrelated to the laws."

In November, Massachusetts voters will decide whether to uphold the state's 2016 nondiscrimination law that protects transgender people in public spaces. This is the first-ever statewide popular vote on nondiscrimination protections for transgender people.

"Research has shown that transgender people are frequently denied access, verbally harassed or physically assaulted while trying to use public restrooms," said study author Jody L. Herman, a scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute. "This study should provide some assurance that these types of public accommodations laws provide necessary protections for transgender people and maintain safety and privacy for everyone."

The report, "Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Laws in Public Accommodations: A Review of Evidence Regarding Safety and Privacy in Public Restrooms, Locker Rooms and Changing Rooms," appears in the Sexuality Research and Social Policyand is authored by Amira Hasenbush, the Jim Kepner Law and Public Policy Fellow at the Williams Institute, along with Andrew R. Flores, Assistant Professor at Mills College and Visiting Scholar at the Williams Institute, and Jody L. Herman, Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute.

—From a press release

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.


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