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Transgender woman banned from Idaho store over use of restroom

by
Restroom sign - Flickr photo by Jess Johnson
Restroom sign - Flickr photo by Jess Johnson

By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - A transgender woman whose use of a women's restroom in an Idaho grocery store reportedly upset other customers has been cited for trespassing and banned from the store for a year, police said on Friday.

A Rosauers supermarket in Lewiston asked police to charge 25-year-old Ally Robledo, who was born male but identifies as female, with the misdemeanor trespass charge on Monday, Lewiston Police Captain Roger Lanier said.

"The store security officer said he had been dealing with a problem over a couple days with the person going into the women's restroom and urinating while standing up," Lanier said.

He added that the store had reported that Robledo's use of the restroom made other female customers "very uncomfortable."

Robledo said she was being discriminated against.

"I'm a female trapped in a man's body. It's natural for me to go to the ladies' room. Getting the no trespassing order for a public restroom was really painful," she said.

The incident follows several cases that have stoked public debate about the boundaries of gender identity and the rights of transgender people to use accommodations such as restrooms in government buildings and businesses open to the public.

In February the parents of a 6-year-old transgender girl in Colorado filed a complaint with the state's civil rights agency challenging a decision by education officials to deny their child access to the girls' restrooms in her school. The case is being closely watched by civil libertarians.

Then last month in Arizona, a judge declined to grant a divorce to a transgender man, ruling he could not prove he was a male when he wed his wife in Hawaii. Same-sex marriages are not recognized in Arizona. The man has said he would appeal.

Colorado and a dozen other states have laws explicitly barring discrimination against transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations, but Idaho does not, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Robledo said she was being unfairly treated by the store and by authorities in a rural area where questions about gender identity and the rights of transgender people rarely arise.

"I'm struggling here in this rural community as a transgender. Now I feel even more vulnerable," she said.

Ilona Turner, legal director of Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, said it was discriminatory to prevent transgender people from using the same facilities as everyone else.

"Transgender people have the same needs and deserve the same access to public stores and facilities as others without discrimination based on who they are. They just need to go to the bathroom like everyone else," she told Reuters by email.

An executive with Rosauers, a regional supermarket chain based in Spokane, Washington, did not respond to a request for comment.

Under Idaho law, anyone who owns or controls a property can deny access to it. Lanier said police responded to a trespassing matter involving Robledo and were not in a position to address the transgender issue.

"Society has yet to define exactly what makes a transgender. Far be it from a police department in Idaho to try to define that," he said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Xavier Briand)

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