I was doing my final edits last night when BrightSide commented that all the HB2 hoopla isn’t really about the bathrooms.
Of course it isn’t.
That’s not at the heart of HB2, anyway. It boils down to a couple of core issues:
- Who holds the power, a local community or the state? In North Carolina, the state has the ultimate say. The needs of cities like Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, or Wilmington are vastly different than those of Boone, Tryon, or Gastonia, but with one sweep of his pen Governor McCrory eliminated any possibility of local municipalities creating legal protection for their LGBT citizens.
- The state of North Carolina has explicitly defined classes of citizens protected under the law from discrimination due to race, religion, color, national origin, age, handicap, or biological sex as designated on a person’s birth certificate. Specifically omitting sexual orientation means the state by default implies it will not prosecute discrimination on that basis. Signing HB2 into law effectively shuts the door on any legal protection under local ordinances either.
What does this mean to you? In North Carolina your cousin Kim can be fired for being a lesbian. Your friend Mike, who identifies as female, can be fired for being transgender. And, technically, your straight spouse can be fired for being heterosexual. There is no protection based on sexual orientation, so there’s no reason that couldn’t apply to straight people, too.
So why all the uproar about public bathrooms? Well, I have two theories about that.
- It’s the most salacious talking point from the Charlotte ordinance. The intrinsic value of equal rights for everyone? Balancing the economic rights of consumers and business owners? State versus local government? These are all abstract (some might say boring) concepts. But a man dressed as a woman going into a locker room?! I can see why the vast majority has gravitated toward an argument over that image.
- In a slightly more cynical vein…if you were a politician that was interested in curtailing LGBT protections in this state, but you weren’t ready for an all-out war against the ACLU and LGBT community, framing the dismantling of Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance (as well as blocking any future ones) as protecting the fairer sex is bound to push the right buttons. Nothing provokes bizarre leaps of thinking like a knee-jerk reaction to something different.
On a side note, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore may have done a little soft-shoe while defending the bill in March. “One of the biggest issues was about privacy,” Moore said. “The way the ordinance was written by City Council in Charlotte, it would have allowed a man to go into a bathroom, locker, or any changing facility, where women are – even if he was a man. We were concerned. Obviously there is the security risk of a sexual predator, but there is the issue of privacy.” CNN Politics, 24 Mar. 2016.
Huh. Lead with privacy issues, but be sure to throw out the phrase “sexual predator” while discussing the ordinance. That should stir the pot a little.
I’m left a bit unclear about the actual reason for HB2, then. Did they block the ordinance to maintain privacy for women using the restroom? Or because allowing men to use women’s facilities posed a risk of sexual violence? Or because, as Pat McCrory asserted, the ordinance simply “defied common sense”?
Call me a cynic, but I’d say they saw an opportunity to curb LGBT rights in North Carolina and took it.
As for the national lashing we’re getting for being small-minded enough to legislate discrimination? Well, plenty of people around these parts are awfully fond of saying they like someone who tells it like it is.
It’s pretty clear to me that North Carolina’s landing squarely on the wrong side of history, and they’re getting a good dose of natural consequences to teach them the lesson.