President Obama's latest directive to all public schools in the nation has created a controversial divide.
He has ordered school leaders to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms matching their gender identity, causing quite a stir among opponents of the rule.
The directive is not yet signed into law, giving those opposed to it more ammunition to fight it. Nearly half the nation’s states have come together with a lawsuit, suing to block the policy; however, disobeying the order leaves public schools with the risk of losing federal funding.
Dubbed 'House Bill 2,' or the Public Facilities Privacy and Security act, the anti-LGBT legislation passed in North Carolina revokes the president's directive.
It states single sex, multi-occupancy bathrooms and changing facilities are to be determined by a person’s biological sex.
"The only thing that makes sense in public policy is everybody lives with the gender of their birth, that’s their identity," said Patrick Mangan, President, Citizens for Community Values of Indiana.
The lengthy act comes after President Obama’s order permitting transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.
Mangan, supports HB2. As the president of Citizens for Community Values of Indiana, he believes in stopping the Commander-in-chief’s directive.
"What's the fair way to do it? Well I'd say that’s the second question. The first question is what’s right and what’s wrong. Because there’s no fair way to enforce something that’s wrong, so if it’s wrong to do this, there is no rights to it, there is no fairness to it, we just shouldn’t do it," said Mangan.
Some say it’s not that simple.
"The more we can hash out and the more people can try to understand each other’s viewpoint, the better the chance is of coming up with a compromise," said Dr. Erin Leonard, psychotherapist with a specialization in childhood and adolescence.
Leonard works with transgender youth.
"That’s the important thing, is coming up with a compromise that keeps everybody comfortable and everybody safe," said Leonard.
Although advocates agree conversation is an important part of finding a solution, they say it’s not the be-all end-all.
"Actually people shouldn’t care. It shouldn’t even be an issue, it shouldn’t even be discussed," said Meghan Buell, Board President, Trees, Inc., South Bend.
Meghan Buell, a transgender woman is a South Bend Community School Corporation substitute teacher.
She also presides over Trees, Inc., a transgender enrichment program in South Bend.
"It's important for safety on all levels, whether it’s the transgender student, any student at all in the school. This just happens to be the hot topic, blown out of proportion and shouldn’t even be an issue and shouldn't even be talked about," said Buell.
She says all single-use restrooms in the country should be gender neutral.
"There's no reason you go into a restaurant or place and there’s single-use bathrooms, one for men, one for women, and there’s a line at one and there’s not a line at the other one," said Buell.
But she says that’s just a start. There’s a long way to go before this matter is resolved.
Eli Williams of The LGBTQ Center also believes there are more urgent issues at stake.
"Even if there is a policy in place, I know my youth are still getting harassed at school when they’re in the bathroom. It’s happening still. So a policy, yes it's helpful…incredibly important, incredibly important, but that doesn’t mean the harassment still isn’t happening," said Eli Williams, Executive Director, The LGBTQ Center, South Bend.
Indiana is just one of five states without hate crime legislation; something Williams says is the bigger issue. Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Wyoming are the other four states.
"Why are we focusing on bathrooms, when people are getting brutally murdered in South Bend, in our own community?" said Williams.
"Although this is a topic that probably shouldn’t be getting as much attention as it is, it is a serious topic. We just need to move on, and go okay, let’s come to an agreement on a solution, and move forward because lives are being lost," said Buell.
With a growing number of states joining the force against the Obama Administration’s policy, it will likely take the Supreme Court, or an act of Congress to clarify whether or not federal civil rights laws protect gender identity.
According to Politico, so far the highest court to take on a transgender student rights issue is the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Earlier this year it upheld transgender teen Gavin Grimm’s right to use the men’s restroom at his Virginia high school.