- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 14, 2016

The attack by a man on an 8-year-old girl in a women’s restroom last week in a Chicago restaurant is raising alarm about opposite-sex access to public facilities in the name of transgender rights.

Police say the man, 33-year-old Reese Hartstirn, entered the women’s room May 7 at Jason’s Deli in Chicago’s South Loop and choked the girl until she passed out.

The girl’s mother, who was in the adjacent stall, heard her daughter’s screams and rescued her, while restaurant patrons held the suspect until police arrived, according to WLS-TV in Chicago.

Opponents of laws allowing opposite-sex public-facility use argue that they increase the danger of such attacks because they allow men, transgender or not, to enter women’s rooms unchallenged.

“I’m sure his intent was innocent,” said Susan Wright in a Friday post on the conservative website RedState. “I’m sure he really felt that he belonged in the women’s restroom and the little girl was somehow oppressing him, which caused the confusion, resulting in his hands ending up around her neck.”

Chicago bans discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. Battles over whether such anti-discrimination ordinances apply to transgender bathroom access have spiked since Houston voters defeated 3-to-1 a so-called “bathroom bill” in November.

The Obama administration released an order Friday banning public schools from denying access to bathrooms, locker rooms and other single-sex facilities. Under the order, a parent must first notify the district that the child’s gender identity “differs from previous representations or records.”

In other situations, no such proof is required. In New York City, for example, Mayor Bill de Blasio last week signed an executive order forbidding municipal employees from asking for proof of gender identity from those using city-owned facilities such as restrooms and showers.

Hartstirn is scheduled to appear in court Monday on charges of aggravated kidnapping of a child, aggravated battery of a child and battery causing bodily harm, as well as aggravated assault of a police officer, according to WLS-TV.

Supporters of transgender rights argue that such attacks are still against the law  and that anyone who commits crimes after entering opposite-sex bathrooms remains subject to prosecution.

“You know, a dude who would choke out an eight-year-old girl is probably not the kind of dude who would be dissuaded by the wrong sign on a restroom door,” argued a commenter on RedState.

Others say allowing men to enter women’s rooms is asking for trouble. After a Washington state commission ruled in December that the state’s anti-discrimination law applied to transgender bathroom access, a man drew headlines by undressing in a Seattle women’s public locker room, saying he was allowed to do so.

“It was dangerous before this new bathroom insanity came along,” said another comment. “The guy is a criminal looking for victims. Don’t make it any easier for him!”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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