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North Carolina Police Say They Can't Enforce Transgender Bathroom Law

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Since HB2 is on the books in North Carolina, at least for right now, we wondered how it was being enforced across the state. It turns out it's not.

DAMIEN GRAHAM: The bill doesn't speak to enforcement nor penalty.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

That's Damien Graham, the communications director for the City of Raleigh and a spokesman for its police department.

GRAHAM: There was certainly a time period where we had to dig into the bill and have our attorneys look at it long and hard, but because, again, there wasn't any specific language that spoke to enforcement or even penalty, there wasn't clarity about what to do about it.

And so as a result, you know, if we get a complaint, we will respond to that complaint just as we would any other complaint, but we wouldn't have a means of penalizing someone. We couldn't arrest someone, for example, for using potentially the wrong restroom.

SIEGEL: Have they received any complaints in Raleigh about who's using which restroom?

GRAHAM: None that I'm aware of, no.

SIEGEL: And it's not just Raleigh. We reached out to 10 police departments around the state. Most of them didn't want to talk about this. But those we reached in Chapel Hill, Greensboro and Asheville confirm that they had also gotten zero complaints.

SHAPIRO: Christina Hallingse is the public information officer for the police department in Asheville. She says if they did enforce the law, they would have some major logistical challenges.

CHRISTINA HALLINGSE: The only way for us be able to enforce HB2 would to actually have officers posted outside of public restrooms requesting someone's birth certificate. And I know for certain that we could not do that. That would take everyone that we have on staff. It would take them off the streets, off patrol and having to put them at bathrooms.

SIEGEL: Raleigh's Damien Graham says there is one tangible way HB2 has changed the city. Officials are being asked a lot by folks like us to talk about gender and bathrooms.

GRAHAM: I mean that's the thing that's really frustrating for us, is that we have so many great things that are going on and a real positive energy that's going through the city, but this is the issue that's really getting the attention of the world right now. And that's unfortunate.

SIEGEL: And he says it's not going away anytime soon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.