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Published in: Sexuality Research and Social Policy 1/2019

23-07-2018

Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Laws in Public Accommodations: a Review of Evidence Regarding Safety and Privacy in Public Restrooms, Locker Rooms, and Changing Rooms

Authors: Amira Hasenbush, Andrew R. Flores, Jody L. Herman

Published in: Sexuality Research and Social Policy | Issue 1/2019

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Abstract

Legislation, regulations, litigation, and ballot propositions affecting public restroom access for transgender people increased drastically in the last three years. Opponents of gender identity inclusive public accommodations nondiscrimination laws often cite fear of safety and privacy violations in public restrooms if such laws are passed, while proponents argue that such laws are needed to protect transgender people and concerns regarding safety and privacy violations are unfounded. No empirical evidence has been gathered to test such laws’ effects. This study presents findings from matched pairs analyses of localities in Massachusetts with and without gender identity inclusive public accommodation nondiscrimination ordinances. Data come from public record requests of criminal incident reports related to assault, sex crimes, and voyeurism in public restrooms, locker rooms, and dressing rooms to measure safety and privacy violations in these spaces. This study finds that the passage of such laws is not related to the number or frequency of criminal incidents in these spaces. Additionally, the study finds that reports of privacy and safety violations in public restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms are exceedingly rare. This study provides evidence that fears of increased safety and privacy violations as a result of nondiscrimination laws are not empirically grounded.

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Appendix
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Footnotes
1
See, e.g., EEOC v. Harris Funeral Homes, 2018, which affirmed the Sixth Circuit’s previous holdings that discrimination against a transgender individual is illegal sex discrimination under Title VII. In that case, a funeral home director was fired after she told her employer that she was transgender and planned to transition and begin wearing women’s work clothing on the job. The court also stated that religious beliefs and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act do not overrule the nondiscrimination requirements of Title VII. The last paragraph in this section discusses court cases that directly address sex discrimination as it applies to transgender individuals in the context of restroom access.
 
2
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has slowed support for this Equal Access Rule in the last year. Online training materials meant to support homeless shelters in the implementation of the rule were ordered removed from the department’s website (MacGillis, 2017).
 
3
Boston and Cambridge both had a GIPANDO prior to the 2011 state law. Neither locality is included in this analysis.
 
4
The initial design also planned to identify contiguous localities, treating boundary lines as regression discontinuities (Keele & Titiunik, 2015). However, since the occurrence of the crimes sought was rare, there was insufficient analytical power to utilize geographic variation to the full extent possible. Instead, the researchers opted for simpler analytical methods relying on data preprocessing and case selection to reduce analytical assumptions. However, the matched localities were limited to localities that had a shared boundary with at least one of the GIPANDO localities.
 
5
The indices were: the Neighborhood Scout Crime Index (retrieved from https://​www.​neighborhoodscou​t.​com/​ma/​crime/​), violent crimes per 1000 residents and property crimes per 1000 residents, the USA.​com Crime Index (retrieved from http://​www.​usa.​com/​massachusetts-state-crime-and-crime-rate.​htm), and the City Data.​com 2012 Index (retrieved from http://​www.​city-data.​com/​crime/​crime-Massachusetts.​html).
 
6
We conducted a second analysis using a matching procedure that included localities with clear GIPANDOs, localities with limited GIPANDOs, and matched localities that clearly did not have a GIPANDO. This second analysis found similar results to the analysis presented above. See Appendix for a description and results of this second analysis.
 
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Metadata
Title
Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Laws in Public Accommodations: a Review of Evidence Regarding Safety and Privacy in Public Restrooms, Locker Rooms, and Changing Rooms
Authors
Amira Hasenbush
Andrew R. Flores
Jody L. Herman
Publication date
23-07-2018
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Sexuality Research and Social Policy / Issue 1/2019
Print ISSN: 1868-9884
Electronic ISSN: 1553-6610
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-018-0335-z