AMNA NAWAZ: In 2016, North Carolina was in the spotlight when it became the first state to pass a bill barring transgender people from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.
The law sparked national outrage and was repealed a year later.
But, just in the last week or so, Idaho, Iowa and Arkansas have passed their own versions of bathroom bills.
And Arkansas is on the verge of passing an even more restrictive bill.
Laura Barron-Lopez has the latest.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Last week, Arkansas bans students from kindergarten through high school from using public school bathrooms that match their gender identity.
Another bill in the state would allow someone to be charged with a misdemeanor if they enter a public changing room of the opposite sex with so-called sexual intent and a minor is present.
So far, six states have passed bathroom bills of their own.
And, just this year, more than two dozen bathroom bills have been filed by Republicans in at least 15 states, more than any other year.
For more on these bills and their impact, I'm joined by Jo Yurcaba.
They cover LGBTQ issues for NBC Out of NBC News.
Jo, thanks for joining.
The latest Arkansas bill originally criminalized transgender people's access to bathrooms based on a minor being in that bathroom.
Now the amended version applies only where there is sexual intent, according to the bill, when a minor is present.
Republican state Senator John Payton, the lead sponsor of the bill, said he didn't intend for it to target transgender people.
STATE SEN. JOHN PAYTON (R-AR): Now, I have also had e-mails that say that trans people are not a threat to minors, like middle-aged white, straight, Baptist men are, which I'm one of.
And I have got good news.
This bill applies to me.
It applies to all of you if you choose to enter the bathroom the opposite of your sex.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: How could this bill be interpreted or enforced?
JO YURCABA, NBC Out: That's one of the big questions with these bathroom bills and was a question back when North Carolina's H.B.2 was proposed in 2016.
And trans people are just wondering, what would that look like when they go into the bathroom?
Is someone going to just be able to challenge who they are at any time or ask for their I.D.?
Within schools, there would be a clear policy from the school district, but there's a similar lack of clarity.
Would teachers be policing students' bathroom use?
And even with this amendment to the bill regarding sexual intent, advocates still fear that someone, a trans person, could be challenged in a restroom, even though the bill now is not intended to target transgender people.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And a parent, Aaron Jennen, a lifelong Arkansas resident, father of a transgender daughter, testified before Arkansas state lawmakers yesterday, and he said that he would never force his daughter to go into a men's restroom.
AARON JENNEN, Father of a Transgender Daughter: Before she came out as trans and before she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, I witnessed the stress and anxiety she had around to using the public changing rooms and bathrooms.
We would be out in public.
She would need to use the bathroom.
And she would beg us to the point of tears to take her home.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: As you talk to people like this father across the country, what are you hearing is the impact of these bills on transgender kids and adults?
JO YURCABA: So, trans youth and their families have told me that these bills really put a target on their backs at school, because, for example, the bills have a provision usually that says that young people can use a single-occupancy bathroom, such as a teachers bathroom, if they don't want to use the bathroom of their assigned sex at birth.
And trans young people have told me that often those bathrooms are far away from their classes.
It means they have to walk along way.
They can't go to the bathroom with their friends.
And that draws unwanted attention.
And these are students who already face more bullying.
And so what it does is, it really makes it feel like it's dangerous for them to just use the bathroom at school.
So I have had youth telling me that they will avoid using the bathroom altogether.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And what about for transgender adults?
Because this bill, specifically the one that just was amended, would apply to them.
JO YURCABA: Yes.
Yes, for trans adults, it's similar.
They feel that these kinds of bathrooms will make them a target -- or these kinds of laws will make them a target in bathrooms.
They're worried that, as people testified at yesterday's hearing, they already face violence in bathrooms.
So they're afraid that these laws will make them even more of a target when they go into a bathroom.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And when North Carolina passed its bathroom bill in 2016, there was a massive backlash.
Why is there a resurgence of these bills in Republican-led states?
JO YURCABA: I think there's been a resurgence of these bills, in part because legislation targeting LGBTQ people has just been growing exponentially over the last three years.
So you have more than 400 bills targeting LGBTQ people that have been filed so far this year in state legislatures.
And as those have been filed, they have been growing increasingly more extreme.
And the best example we have of that is gender-affirming care bans.
So, when those were first filed a few years ago, they targeted minors, which advocates said was still already very extreme.
More recently, this year, we saw the first ever bill that would have banned gender-affirming care for people up to 26 years old.
So, as they're growing more extreme, conservatives are also feeling like they can add on these bills that would have previously sparked more backlash, like bathroom bills.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And, as you just noted, bathroom bills are not happening in a vacuum.
There was a new "PBS NewsHour"/NPR/Marist poll that found 43 percent of Americans now support laws criminalizing gender-affirming care for minors; 54 percent oppose such laws.
That's a 15 percentage point increase since April of 2021.
So, when you look at all of these anti-LGBTQ bills that have been proposed, the gender-affirming care bans, bans on education about gender identity, do you see a difference in the outreach to these bills?
JO YURCABA: Yes, absolutely.
We have seen a huge difference in outreach, for example, to what advocates have dubbed Florida's don't say gay and trans bill, which targets education there, and between outrage directed at these gender-affirming care bans.
And I think that's for a few reasons.
First is just because most people know lesbian, gay, bisexual people, but they're much less likely to know trans people, and they're even less likely to know trans youth.
So they don't know what their lives look like.
They don't know what their health care looks like.
And, as a result, they're more susceptible to misinformation about it.
A lot of these bills describe health care for trans youth as mutilation.
They say it permanently sterilizes them, that trans children are receiving surgeries, when that isn't the case.
So, what's happening is, you're seeing a lot less backlash because people just don't understand what care looks like for these young people.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Jo Yurcaba of NBC Out, thank you so much.
JO YURCABA: Thank you.