The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights this week criticized controversial laws that were passed recently in North Carolina and Mississippi and considered in other places, describing the measures as discriminatory and potentially dangerous.
In a statement released Monday, the commission said that the North Carolina law directing transgender people to use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate “jeopardizes not only the dignity, but also the actual physical safety, of transgender people.”
The commission said it had the same concerns about a Mississippi law that allows some businesses to refuse to serve same-sex couples, because that measure also allows certain businesses decide who is allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on a person’s “anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”
“The North Carolina and Mississippi laws, and similar legislation proposed in other states, perverts the meaning of religious liberty and perpetuates homophobia, transphobia, marginalizes the transgender and gay community and has no place in our society,” Martin R. Castro, chairman of the commission, said in a statement Monday.
However, Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow — two members of the panel — released a statement saying that the group’s sentiment was not unanimous. They called on their fellow commissioners to “please take a deep breath” and said the laws being debated have been mischaracterized.
While saying they were not endorsing or opposing the measures, Heriot and Kirsanow said that “none of [these laws] deserves to be referred to in the derisive terms used by the commission majority.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group, criticized the commission’s statement and said that the civil rights agency was misrepresenting the law in North Carolina as well as measures in Mississippi and Tennessee.
North Carolina’s law has come under intense criticism from rights groups as well as a host of major businesses. Last week, six U.S. senators urged the National Basketball Association to move its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte because of the law. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters Friday that “the current state of the law is problematic for the league,” but said that owners who met last week did not discuss moving the game.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who signed the law, signed an executive order last week seeking to quell some of the outrage sparked by the measure, although he defended it and left the highly criticized provisions intact. McCrory and other supporters of the bathroom law have defended it as “common sense” legislation.
Since the North Carolina law was passed, PayPal and Deutsche Bank have both abandoned plans to expand in the state, while performances by Bruce Springsteen, Cirque du Soleil and, most recently, Pearl Jam have been canceled. In Mississippi, business groups had said they were disappointed or concerned about that state’s legislation, while Bryan Adams canceled a concert there because of the law.