People protest outside the North Carolina Executive Mansion in Raleigh, N.C., in March as lawmakers pushed through controversial bathroom legislation. (AP Photo/Emery P. Dalesio)

You could argue the bathroom wars never took a break.

North Carolina is currently the only state in the nation that puts restrictions on which public restrooms and locker rooms transgender people can use. It came at a cost: Its GOP governor arguably lost his job over support for the bill, and businesses from PayPal to Bruce Springsteen to the NBA took their business elsewhere.

But some conservatives aren't backing down from what could yet again be the hottest social issue debate of the year: A month into 2017, lawmakers in at least 11 states have filed legislation to close off certain bathrooms to transgender people.

The highest-profile case is in Texas, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) personally announced the bill earlier this month: "Does anyone in here who has grandchildren, have a granddaughter who's 8 or 9, want them to walk into a bathroom with a man?" he told the Texas Tribune.

Bills have also been filed (or carried over from 2016 legislative sessions) in Alabama, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming. The Wyoming bill is the first of its kind in the state, and it would make it a crime of public indecency to use a bathroom or changing facility designated for the opposite sex.

The Alabama Privacy Act is proposing to have attendants "stationed at the door of each rest room to monitor the appropriate use of the rest room and answer any questions or concerns posed by users."

Some context here: Thousands of bills are filed in state legislatures every year; most of them don't become law. In 2016, lawmakers in more than 20 states considered bathroom legislation. Only one law was enacted.

But many of those states mulled bathroom legislation before the public beating North Carolina took for passing its bathroom bill. The blowback was so heavy that North Carolina Republicans met in December to repeal the law they had passed just eight months earlier. (The repeal effort ultimately failed, but that's a different story.)

The North Carolina legislature met for a special session on Dec. 21 over the state's much-criticized House Bill 2, which opponents say discriminates against transgender people, but did not repeal the controversial "bathroom law." (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

This year, Republicans have total control in 25 states; a slight uptick from 2016 and an opportunity for some social conservatives to push for laws they say protect people's privacy, religious values and traditional family norms.

Gay rights groups have assumed the fight stance.

"In 2016 we saw the most anti-LGBT state legislative sessions that we had ever seen,"said Chase Strangio, an attorney with ACLU's LGBT project, "and coming into 2017, I had been anticipating another bad year." In anticipation of that, the ACLU has launched a website tracking state bills it says will affect LGBT rights.


A report released Monday by the Human Rights Campaign said the national gay rights group is "bracing for a repeat of the 2015 and 2016 sessions." In 2016, the Human Rights Campaign tallied that legislators in 38 states filed 250 bills that the gay rights community viewed as restricting their rights.

But perhaps North Carolina is serving as a cautionary tale for Republican leaders in some states, who are greeting the notion of the bathroom wars arriving in their state with trepidation and even outright hostility.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) threw cold water on bathroom legislation proposed in his state, telling the Lexington Herald Leader: "Why would we? Why would anybody need it? Is it an issue? Is there anyone you know in Kentucky who has trouble going to the bathroom? Seriously. Have you heard of one person in Kentucky having trouble taking care of business in Kentucky?"

In Texas, State House Speaker Joe Straus (R) said that bathroom legislation is not "the most urgent concern of mine," and he cautioned his colleagues to focus on policies that "invite economic activity" and "not turn it away."

A GOP-controlled committee killed Virginia's bathroom legislation.

Progressives aren't counting on GOP fear of political retribution as a backstop, though. They point out that Bevin joined the lawsuit challenging a federal regulation under President Barack Obama that students will be able to use the bathroom of their choice.

Gay rights groups are instead hoping to leverage the business community's opposition to bathroom and religious freedom legislation. That strategy paid off last year: Under threats from Hollywood to stop filming in the state, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) vetoed a controversial religious liberty bill that would have allowed religious organizations in his state to refuse service. And just five of the 250 bills the Human Rights Campaign tracked became law.

Gay rights groups are also trying to build a conservative case against bathroom laws by pointing out they often have the effect of overriding state and local ordinances. (That's one reason South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) vetoed bathroom legislation in his state in early 2016.)

On Monday evening, the Human Rights Campaign jumped on the routine archiving of the State Department's website under Secretary of State John F. Kerry, which had the effect of also archiving his official apology for the mass firing of gay people from the U.S. government in the 1950s. Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he wasn't sure whether Trump would roll back Obama-era protections for LGBT federal government and contract workers.

"With each passing hour, the Trump administration continues to show the extent of their contempt for the enormous progress made over the past eight years," Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement.

With a Republican White House, Republican Congress and Republican majorities in many states, the question becomes what sort of moves gay rights advocates can expect now.