Bathroom Laws as Status Crimes
By Stephen Rushin & Jenny Carroll
A growing number of American jurisdictions have considered laws that prohibit trans individuals from using bathroom facilities consistent with their gender identities. Several scholars have criticized these so-called “bathroom laws” as a form of discrimination in violation of federal law. Few scholars, though, have considered the criminal justice implications of these proposals.
By analyzing dozens of proposed bathroom laws, this Article explores how many laws do more than stigmatize the trans community—they effectively criminalize it. Some of these proposed laws would establish new categories of criminal offenses for trans individuals who use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. Others would transform bathroom use by trans individuals into an unlawful trespass. The existing literature suggests that the criminal justice system is unprepared to handle this newfound responsibility.
This Article concludes that, by effectively criminalizing noncriminal conduct so inextricably linked to the status of being trans, some proposed bathroom laws may violate the Eighth Amendment’s bar on cruel and unusual punishment.