Heels March 24, 2016

Pat McCrory really, really wants to look in your pants. And the North Carolina governor’s fascination with inspecting the private parts of private citizens is going to wind up costing residents of his state millions of dollars defending the lawsuits that will inevitably 1) challenge, and 2) overturn the law he just signed, which was hastily drafted and passed by Republicans in the state legislature in a special session yesterday.

Zack Ford summarizes what went down, “How North Carolina Became the Most Anti-LGBT State in Less Than a Day“:

Wednesday was a whirlwind day in North Carolina’s government. The legislature convened a special session, a complicated multi-part bill was introduced, it passed through the House and Senate — both Republican controlled — and Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed it into law. Just like that, North Carolina became the state with the most hostile laws against LGBT people in the country.

Targeting Charlotte for passing its recent LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance, the sweeping legislation preempts municipal nondiscrimination ordinances, essentially making it illegal for cities and counties to extend protections to the LGBT community. Only two other states, Arkansas and Tennessee, have such a law, but North Carolina’s bill goes much further. It also bans transgender people from using restrooms that match their gender unless they’ve managed to change their birth certificate, and prevents civil suits from being filed in state court even when discrimination is documented by the already-poorly-funded Human Rights Commission. On top of all the anti-LGBT measures, the legislation went further and prohibited cities from mandating any employment compensation (minimum wage, benefits, etc.) beyond what is offered at the state level.

The pretense here is that this is a “bathroom bill.” This is a silly fad being pushed all over the place by anti-LGBT dead-enders frustrated that they’ve been losing legal and moral arguments for decades due to their inability to offer any reason why same-sex partners should be denied the right to marry. Ensuring that LGBT people enjoy the same civil rights as everyone else doesn’t take away those rights from anybody else. It doesn’t change anything else or affect anything else in any way. Some people may not like the idea, and they may not approve of it, but so what? It doesn’t affect them, so they have no basis for opposing it. As New Zealand MP Maurice Williamson put it, legal protections for the civil rights of LGBT people are “fantastic for the people it affects, but for the rest of us, life will go on.”

Enter the “bathroom bills.” This is an almost-but-not-quite-clever attempt to declare that some potential harm has been identified for everyone else. When the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, passed a bill protecting LGBT residents from being denied their basic rights, it included the standard reference to the right to access to “public accommodations.” That’s what anti-discrimination laws do. They say that no segment of the public can be denied access to places that are open to the public. Legislators in North Carolina are familiar with this. For generations, that state denied black residents access to “public accommodations” — restaurants, stores, hospitals, public transportation, public restrooms, parking, sometimes even sidewalks.

Anti-gay conservatives decided to focus on the bathrooms. “Focus” may not be a strong enough word — they’ve decided to fixate on the bathrooms.

North Carolina’s new law would prohibit Michael Hughes, a transgender man, from using a public men’s room, requiring him to use the women’s room because — according to North Carolina Republicans — he’s “really” a woman.

Here’s their not-quite-clever idea: Granting LGBT people the same civil right as everyone else has to the public accommodation of public restrooms means that transgender people can use public bathrooms along with everyone else. And that means that women like Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner or the Wachowski sisters (who, they say, are not “really” women) might be using the women’s room. And thus, in their view, allowing LGBT people the same basic civil rights as everyone else will mean that any man at all would be allowed to wander into any women’s bathroom anywhere and your young daughter won’t be safe unless we overturn all such anti-discrimination laws.

Therefore, if you follow all the illogical leaps of logic here, the only way to protect our young daughters from pervy straight male pedophiles hiding in their elementary school bathrooms is to ensure that it is legal to bar all LGBT people from access to any and all public accommodations, to ensure that it is legal to fire people for being LGBT, and to prohibit them from buying, selling, renting, etc. It’s simple cause-and-effect, you see: Corporate HR must be allowed to ask any job applicant if they’re gay “because we don’t hire that kind of people,” otherwise your daughter is going to be attacked by a man in a trenchcoat hiding in the stall next to hers. If two women dining together in a public restaurant can’t be interrogated about whether or not they’re a couple — and denied service if they say yes — then grown men will start using the girls showers at the local YWCA and there will be nothing anyone can do to stop it.

This is all utter nonsense, of course, and they know this — which is why no one has attempted to make this argument in court, where transparent appeals to transphobia wouldn’t cut it as the basis for a legal argument.

And it won’t cut it, months or maybe only weeks from now, when the state of North Carolina has to go to court to defend its new anti-LGBT “bathroom bill.” The state will lose that fight, most likely in a spectacularly expensive fashion. McCrory and his Republican colleagues in the state legislature know this. They’re not trying to win this fight, only to strike a pose as “fighters.” This is a page from the George Wallace playbook. Everybody remembers Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door, vowing to fight against segregation forever. They tend to forget what happened just moments later — Wallace lost, backed down, and walked away as a loser. That was his shtick — pick a losing fight, lose the fight and stick taxpayers with the tab, then posture and strut around as the fighter who “took on the Feds” (i.e., who tried to ignore the Constitution and lost, big time).

That’s what Pat McCrory is doing right now, and the residents of North Carolina will be paying the bill for it for a long time.

Between now and then, McCrory and his fellow Tarheel Republicans are going to have to answer an even more difficult question. They have passed a law declaring that they will police access to public restrooms based on “biological sex.” OK, then, “How is the government of North Carolina supposed to figure out a person’s biological sex?

Apparently, Gov. McCrory wants to look in your pants. Gov. McCrory wants to look in everyone’s pants.

Or, to use the rhetorical flourish favored by “bathroom-bill” advocates, Gov. McCrory wants to look in your young daughter’s pants and in the pants of every one of her elementary school classmates.

Or maybe Gov. McCreepy just wants everyone in his state to be issued an official Peeing License, which would clearly state every person’s official biological gender designation. North Carolinian’s would be required to carry these licenses at all times and would have to present them, on demand, before entering any public restroom. Because small government conservatism.

McCreepy’s legislative blitz yesterday wasn’t only a bathroom bill, though. That was the pretext — state legislation to override Charlotte’s city law protecting LGBT civil rights. But the effect — explicitly written into this new law — reaches far beyond just this immediate anti-LGBT pretext. The law claims for the state the right to overrule and override any local or municipal regulation — specifically mentioning local minimum-wage laws and child-labor laws.

So this isn’t just about prohibiting Charlotte from protecting the civil rights of LGBT residents. It’s also about preventing Charlotte from raising the minimum wage. Or preventing Charlotte — or any other municipality — from, say, requiring better water-safety standards than whatever state lawmakers might decide. It’s a centralized, top-down, Raleigh-knows-best power-grab by the capital. Because, again, small government conservatism.


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