First of Two Parts
Politics has always been a soiled business, but given the movements underway – both defending and pushing against laws governing which bathrooms transgender people can use – it’s gotten even messier.
So in an ode to the commode, let’s avoid a dirty scene and keep the bathroom debate clean.
It’s amazing that with so many problems facing Americans, from terrorist threats to astronomical college tuition, the dominant national debate recently has centered on which bathrooms adults can legally use.
Make no mistake: This won’t be relegated to an issue that will be flushed quickly from the headlines, but is in fact a steamy election debate that will lead to a judicial logjam as newly passed statutes – known as "religious freedom" laws – are dumped in the court’s lap. And given the Supreme Court’s current makeup, which side ends up in the outhouse remains to be seen.
While this may seem like a joke, it’s a debate that will result in serious legal precedents. The stakes are extremely high.
More than 30 states have passed or attempted to pass so-called religious freedom measures. These laws range from mandating that people use the bathroom corresponding to their biological gender, to allowing private business owners to refuse service on the basis of religious belief or moral conviction.
And they have come with a price. Big business, professional sports teams, Hollywood, rock stars and even other state governments have criticized them as discriminatory, with some pulling their business ventures from those states, and others threatening to do the same.
Like most issues, this one has devolved into the bowels of divisiveness because a small but vocal minority refuses to see that the law is rooted in common sense and safety, not bigotry. Instead of amicable dialog, many extremists are deliberately employing hateful rhetoric in the hopes of igniting a flashpoint, emboldened by the misguided support of well-known entities.
Those tactics are counterproductive, and serve only to divide, widening the gulf between those who have already shown themselves to be tolerant, from support for gay marriage to an ever-evolving "live and let live" philosophy.
But enough is enough.
Here’s a look at the broader context of the bathroom law, and why it is needed.
Critics cry that the bathroom law discriminates against transgender people, as well as anyone who "identifies" with their opposite biological sex.
First, a word about "discrimination." Does the law discriminate? Of course! And it should, in just the same way that we "discriminate" – a dirty word in today’s society, but one that simply means "choose" – a thousand times a day. We discriminate about what clothes we wear, what toothbrush we buy, where we work, what car we drive, and what kind of latte we order. And yes, we discriminate, as we always have, about which bathrooms we allow each gender to use. It’s always worked before, so why the big controversy now?
Second, this law is, above all, about safety and security, especially for women. What parents in their right minds – Republican and Democrat, gay or straight – would feel comfortable sending their young daughter into the ladies’ bathroom where a man, acting on "feelings" alone, might be using the same facility? A father out with his 5-year old daughter can take her into the men’s room, but when she is 8 or 9, that doesn’t cut it. So what then? Will the father have to enter the women’s bathroom to keep a watchful eye on possible voyeurs, pedophiles, and other predators?
And what about locker rooms? While high school boys would love nothing more than legally accessing the girls’ locker room – after all, who can prove their feelings of "identity?" – it would create an environment of fear and anxiety in a place that should be private and secure. And while an assault or rape there would still be illegal, the liability that now exists should an entity willfully allow the opposite sex to access bathrooms and locker rooms would go out the window.
And how could such a regulation possibly work in the military? Or the workplace, for that matter? How can a woman who feels threatened by that creepy guy habitually inside the women’s bathroom file a sexual harassment lawsuit? Guess what? She can’t, because legally he would be entitled to be there.
But since extremists always push it way beyond common sense (and common decency) to prove a point and garner headlines, watch for them to do an end-run around these laws by lobbying for a third bathroom in public and private facilities. Crazy? Of course, but since the entitlement mentality sweeping America is in full swing – fueled by people’s silence in opposing such ludicrous political correctness – it will happen. If men and women can each have their own bathrooms, the transgendered community should be entitled to one, too, at taxpayer expense, no less! And let’s have another for bisexuals. And gay people. And pet lovers. And private bathrooms for those with a phobia of other people.
Is this debate for real?
Is this really why Bruce Springsteen won’t perform in North Carolina? This is why PayPal won’t locate there? Why some people think the NBA should never hold an all-star game in the Tar Heel state, or the NFL its Super Bowl? It’s too bad these people can’t discriminate between ignorance and common sense.
The beauty of America is the ability to choose. If those entities want to boycott North Carolina, so be it. That’s their right. But they would be wise to fear the much greater backlash that will occur when people see their blatant hypocrisy.
Is PayPal also going to "boycott" the millions of dollars its business generates from consumers in North Carolina? Will the NFL refuse to play its Super Bowl there – the same "morally conscious" league, by the way, that doles out stiffer penalties for steroid use (which affects no one except the user) than it does horrendous domestic assaults?
And Springsteen, self-proclaimed liberal man-of-the-people who derides the "disparity of wealth" in America (code-speak for taking money from those who work and giving it to those who don’t), conveniently doesn’t mention that he takes advantage of a New Jersey tax loophole allowing his 200 acres to be labeled "farmland." What about the millions in property taxes he avoids that could help fund all those welfare programs? With a loophole like that, perhaps Bruce should be boycotting his home state instead.
No one is saying you can’t be transgender. No one is saying you can’t be transgender in public. All the North Carolina law says is that you must use the bathroom corresponding to your gender at birth (or currently are). That’s it. No bigotry. No hatred. No nonsense.
Just good old-fashioned common sense. If we used that a little more, we wouldn’t have such a mess.
Part Two will look at controversial laws that allow businesses to refuse service on religious grounds.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected].