The Republican Party platform adopted this week blasts the Obama administration’s policy on transgender bathroom use – one of several areas where the party’s national agenda closely matches the priorities of GOP leaders in the North Carolina legislature.
More than 20 states are suing to stop the directive by federal agencies that schools must let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender which which they identify. Meanwhile, North Carolina and the U.S. Department of Justice are suing each other over the state’s House Bill 2, which requires people in government buildings to use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth certificate.
The Republican platform says the federal directive is “illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues.”
The 66-page platform also voices support for requiring a photo ID to vote, reforming and lowering taxes and “comprehensive regulatory reform.”
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A North Carolina member of Congress, Rep. Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk, was among the co-chairs of the platform committee that authored the document.
“North Carolina has been taking a lead on these issues already,” Foxx said. “North Carolina has a lot to teach us.”
But Foxx said that neither she nor the two other platform committee members from North Carolina proposed the provision opposing Obama on transgender issues. The platform condemns the federal government’s efforts to extend Title IX – which bans discrimination on the basis of sex – to include gender identity and sexual orientation. It says Obama and his allies want “to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people.”
“They are determined to reshape our schools – and our entire society – to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions,” the provision continues. “Their edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities is at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues. We salute the several states which have filed suit against it.”
Platform writers ultimately removed a sentence that went further in supporting laws like House Bill 2. That line called “limiting access” to bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities “common sense.” Foxx said she isn’t familiar with the reasons for dropping the sentence.
“We were not dealing with a platform that related to the states – this was a federal platform,” she said. “We wanted to be careful that we didn’t do the same thing that the president is doing (in overreaching).”
N.C. Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes praised the Title IX platform provision. “This is just a dreadful overreach on the part of the Obama administration, imposing their false values on the rest of the country,” he said.
The LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, which has lobbied against HB2, called the GOP platform “the most overtly anti-LGBTQ platform in history.” It said in a news release that “Republicans are using the platform to affirm their support for discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ bills in North Carolina and Mississippi targeting the transgender community.”
The platform committee’s one openly gay member lobbied unsuccessfully to remove the provision and instead add language friendly to LGBT people. Foxx said other platform writers wanted to avoid singling out specific groups.
“We look for unity and the things that bind us together as Americans, not the things that divide us,” she said. She added Democrats’ “whole modus operandi is to identify different groups of people and pander to different groups of people.”
Charles Hellwig, a convention delegate from Raleigh, said he’s not sure that the continued attention to bathrooms will have a major impact on the election. “For all the excitement and loud discussions, I don’t know that it changes many votes in North Carolina,” he said.
Donald Trump, who formally received the Republican nomination on Tuesday, hasn’t addressed the issue much. In an interview with The News & Observer earlier this month, Trump said he considered HB2 to be a state-level issue. “The state, they know what’s going on, they see what’s happening, and generally speaking I’m with the state on things like this,” he said.
The Republican platform also calls for expanding laws requiring a photo identification to vote. North Carolina added the requirement starting this year.
“We are concerned that some voting procedures may be open to abuse,” the document says. “For this reason, we support legislation to require proof of citizenship when registering to vote and secure photo ID when voting.”
State Rep. Bill Brawley of Mecklenburg County, who’s serving as a convention delegate, said he’s glad to see the push for voter ID continuing. “The vote is probably the most precious thing we have – why wouldn’t we protect it?” he said.
The platform also calls for reducing regulations on business – a priority of North Carolina’s Republican legislature – and for lowering corporate income taxes. North Carolina has cut that rate, dropping to 5 percent last year and 4 percent this year.
“American businesses now face the world’s highest corporate tax rates,” the national platform says. “That’s like putting lead shoes on your cross-country team.”
North Carolina Democrats criticized the platform and its parallels to state policy. “These planks of the Republican platform are typical of what the GOP has become: a party that promotes discrimination and works to win elections by disenfranchising voters instead of providing ideas to move North Carolina and America forward,” N.C. Democratic Party executive director Kimberly Reynolds said. “What voters really want are well-funded public schools for their children and good jobs and economic prospects for their families.”
Both Democratic and Republicans candidates in past campaigns have deviated from their party’s platform positions. But Hayes said the policy proposals are still an important guide for the party.
“Just like the GPS in your car, it gives you three or four different routes but the destination doesn’t change,” he said. “This is what this party stands for.”