Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, was arrested today at the North Carolina State Legislative Building — not for using the women’s restroom, although she did that too.
Keisling was arrested during a “peaceful sit-in” at the building in Raleigh, protesting against the state’s anti-LGBT House Bill 2, according to reports from the NCTE via Facebook and email. Police led about 18 demonstrators away from House Speaker Tim Moore’s outer office early this evening, the Associated Press reports. As they were taken to a detention center via bus, onlookers chanted, “Thank you, we love you.”
They have been charged with trespassing and are expected to be released in a few hours, according to NCTE. Asked if they were being held in gender-appropriate facilities, an NCTE spokesperson said the only information available so far is that they are all being held together in a center that has single-stall restrooms.
The sit-in was led by the North Carolina NAACP as part of its Moral Monday movement, the spokesperson said. The group organizes sit-ins on a regular basis on a variety of issues while the legislature is in session.
Another 36 protesters were arrested after Keisling's group, BuzzFeed’s Dominic Holden reports via Twitter, as does AP, bringing the total to 54. “Authorities say those latest arrests came after protesters failed to leave the Legislative Building after it closed for the night,” the AP reports.
“Acting General Assembly Police Chief Martin Brock says all of those arrested would be charged with second-degree trespassing,” the AP dispatch continues. “He also says they'll be cited for violating building rules or the fire code. Brock says one also faces a resisting arrest charge.”
Earlier in the day, Keisling and her fellow demonstrators locked arms and sang “We Shall Not Be Moved” and other protest songs outside Gov. Pat McCrory’s office, according to the AP. She told the group, “On the bright side, I used the women’s bathroom here.”
She posted a picture on Facebook of the ladies’ room door, with the comment “I used the women’s room in the governor’s office. Governor McCrory can’t even enforce his law in his house.”
HB 2 expressly bars transgender people from using the restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities that match their gender identity, if those facilities are in government buildings (private-sector companies and organizations can set their own policies). Passed by legislators in a special session and signed into law by McCrory last month, the bill also struck down all LGBT-inclusive municipal nondiscrimination ordinances in the state (it was aimed at blocking one adopted in Charlotte) and prevents cities and counties from enacting new ones. It further bars North Carolinians from suing for discrimination in state courts and prohibits municipalities from setting a minimum wage higher than the state’s.
Her trip to the restroom “was uneventful,” she told BuzzFeed. “No one was bothered, because when I go to the bathroom, I do my business, I mind my own business, and then I go about my business.”
“How many tourists and lobbyists carry their birth certificate when they go to capitol?” she added. “If they are going to check my birth certificate, they damn well check everybody’s birth certificate. And if they check my anatomy, they have to check everybody else’s. That is how this country works — laws have to be enforced equally.”
Keisling and her group were at the state office building today for the beginning of the legislative session. There were also thousands of others objecting to HB 2, and they delivered petitions with 190,000 signatures calling for the law’s repeal, according to a Human Rights Campaign blog post. The petition delivery was coordinated by TurnOUT! NC, a joint project of HRC, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, the Campaign for Southern Equality, and Equality North Carolina.
A bill to repeal HB 2 was filed today.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.