NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A bathroom battle stretches from the White House to the Tri-State Area and across the country.
As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, hundreds of protesters gathered Thursday night outside the Stonewall Inn, at 53 Christopher St. in Greenwich Village, to denounce President Donald Trump’s reversal of his predecessor’s transgender bathroom policy.
Trump’s decision drops federal protections for transgender students allowing them to use the restrooms of their choice.
Among the protesters was Spencer Washington, 18, a high school senior who identifies as a transgender male. Spencer said going away to college in Wisconsin a few months is concerning, now that federal protection for transgender students has been rescinded.
Trump called it an issue that should be left to the states.
“My concern is will I be able to use the men’s bathroom as a trans male in another state that doesn’t protect against that?” Washington said.
New York does protect that right, allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. State schools also operate under that directive.
The mother of a transgender daughter said where transgender people use a bathroom should not be an issue at all anywhere.
“Where our students chose to relieve themselves does not matter,” said Isabel Rose.
Even actress Susan Sarandon turned up at the rally as a New Yorker supporting the rights of those around her.
“We have to make it clear that this is unacceptable, unacceptable — it’s horrific, really,” Sarandon said.
Earlier Thursday, parents and students also gathered in Woodbury, Long Island to denounce the Trump administration’s move, which ended federal protection for transgender students that allowed them to use public school bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identities.
The letter also says that the withdrawal of the guidance documents “does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying, or harassment.”
“All schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment,” the letter says. It adds that the departments of Education and Justice are “committed to the application of Title IX and other federal laws to ensure such protection.”
But New York LGBT Network chief executive officer David Kilmnick calls the president’s rollback of the policy dangerous and said he fears increased harassment of transgender students in school.
“No matter where you live you should be protected from discrimination, you should be able to go to the bathroom that matches your gender identity,” Kilmnick said. “We should never normalize any of our young people being scared and afraid to walk through their hallways.”
Eighteen-year-old Madeline, who started transitioning in middle school, said using the restroom is a right, not a privilege.
“I think that everybody should not have to question whether or not they’re going to be assaulted, or questioned in any way just to use the restroom,” she said. “I should not be forced to use a male’s restroom where it’s an unsafe and quite frankly a very inappropriate situation.”
Betsy Von Hassel, the mother of a 10-year-old transgender child, said the directive victimizes vulnerable children.
“Transgender students are now facing bullying from the highest level, from their government,” she said. “This is not relegated to the state, this is a civil rights issue and every child should be protected.”
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, by fourth grade Zach Mahmud had changed his name on his birth certificate and was using the boys bathroom at his Massapequa elementary school.
“It’s not a choice, it’s who he is,” Lauren Bocketti said.
His mother called the directive discrimination and fears it will endanger transgender children — 40 percent of whom already said they are bullied in school.
Kilmnick said the LGBT Network is assembling a team of attorneys who will fight any instances of harassment or discrimination.
On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter urging the State Education Department “to issue a directive to all school districts making it clear that – regardless of Washington’s action – the rights and protections that had been extended to all students in New York remain unchanged under state law.
“In New York, whether you are gay, straight or transgender, Muslim, Jewish or Christian, rich or poor, black or white or brown, we respect all people – and we will continue to enforce our laws and stand united against those who seek to drive us apart,” Cuomo said.
In Connecticut, Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that in light of action by the Trump administration to roll back federal guidelines, he has signed an executive order ensuring that the rights of transgender students continue uninterrupted.
“Discrimination of this kind is outrageous and has no place in our society. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue – the president’s regressive actions must be rejected by all compassionate people, regardless of party affiliation. In 2011, I was proud to sponsor and help win passage for a comprehensive transgender rights bill here in Connecticut, and to subsequently lead fights nationally against efforts in North Carolina, Indiana, and elsewhere to restrict the rights of people who are transgender. In Connecticut, we will defend the rights of all students – regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, race, ethnicity, and disability status – and will continue to protect their access to welcoming learning environments,” Malloy said in a statement.
Meanwhile, 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho, who performed at Trump’s inauguration last month, said she and her transgender sister want to meet with him to talk about transgender rights.
On Thursday, the president’s press secretary fielded questions about the issue.
“The president obviously understands the issue and the challenges that especially young children face. He just believes this is a state issue that needs to be addressed by states,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.
But U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said there’s no harm in keeping the decision local.
“Only part of it goes back to the states. The directive makes it clear that no bullying is allowed, no discrimination, and the issue of the bathroom should be a state and local issue at least now,” King said.
King said the issue of safety hasn’t been properly investigated.
But LGBT leaders around the country are now urging state lawmakers to pass protections, and fast.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)