Supporters of so-called bathroom bills say they will protect public safety by ensuring that all people, including transgender men and women, use public restrooms that correspond to their sex at birth.
Opponents say their impact is much wider. Critics call them thinly veiled attempts to discriminate against and stigmatize transgender people to score political points.
Supporters make their case with a variety of arguments — some relate to public safety, others question the entire concept of gender identity. But is there evidence to back some of their claims? What can we glean from places with protections for transgender people?
Here’s a rundown of how those claims stand up to scrutiny.
Predators in bathrooms
The claim: Sexual predators will take advantage of public accommodations laws and policies covering transgender people to attack women and children in bathrooms.
The facts: Anti-discrimination protections covering gender identity have been around for years, and there is no evidence they lead to attacks in public facilities.
Explained: As of March 2017, 19 states, the District of Columbia and more than 200 municipalities have anti-discrimination laws and ordinances allowing transgender people to use public facilities that correspond to their gender identity.
Otherwise, whenever the topic comes up in the news, prosecutors, law enforcement agencies and state human rights commissions have consistently denied that there is any correlation between such policies and a spike in assaults.
CNN reached out to 20 law enforcement agencies in states with anti-discrimination policies covering gender identity. None who answered reported any bathroom assaults after the policies took effect.
Michael Dunton, chief records clerk of Rhode Island’s Cranston Police Department, told CNN his department was “hard-pressed” to find such a case: “We track our sex offenders very carefully and we haven’t seen any instance of sexual predators assaulting in bathrooms.”
“I know there is a lot of anxiety associated with this issue, but it seems to be based on fear rather than facts. Given this, it is really disheartening to see so many states (and now our federal government) choose to treat people who are transgender with what looks like hatred,” Maine Human Rights Commission Executive Director Amy Sneirson said.
More common, civil rights groups say, are reports of transgender people being assaulted in bathrooms that don’t match their gender identity.
Transgender people don’t deserve protections
The claim: Being transgender is not a valid condition. Transgender people are mentally ill and should not be afforded the same legal protections or healthcare guarantees as gay and lesbian Americans.
The facts: The clear majority of mainstream medical, psychiatric and psychological communities agree that being transgender is not a concocted fantasy or mental illness. It’s simply a valid state in which one’s gender does not match what was assigned at birth.
Explained: The medical community defines gender identity as the way in which people perceive themselves, which could be different from their gender at birth. A transgender person’s gender identity is different from cultural expectations based on the gender they were born with.
Letting children identify as transgender is harmful
Claim: Children are too young to know if they are transgender, and supporting a child who identifies as transgender is child abuse.
The facts: Research shows that not allowing transgender children to live their gender identity is harmful, and can be deadly.
Just as it advises for adults, the medical community endorses letting children live their gender identity to avoid gender dysphoria or other conditions that may hinder mental or social developmental.
Social transition does not involve the use of cross sex hormones or hormone blockers until the age of puberty, and only then if a patient and healthcare professional deem such treatment necessary.
CNN’s Kwegyirba Croffie contributed to this report.