Finally, after two years of governors caving to corporate bullies, two governors have stood strong to protect the common good. North Carolina’s Pat McCrory has signed a law that protects privacy and safety in public school bathrooms. And Mississippi’s Phil Bryant has protected religious freedom in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage.
Both laws are being misrepresented by those who oppose them. Here’s what they actually do.
The North Carolina law arose after the Charlotte City Council passed a bill requiring schools and businesses to grant people access to any restroom, regardless of sex. To protect privacy and safety, the law says that access to government-run bathrooms, lockers and showers will be determined primarily by biological sex. It leaves private schools, restaurants, stores and businesses free to establish whatever bathroom policies they think best.
Even in government-run facilities, North Carolina makes accommodations. The governor’s office explains: “Anyone who has undergone a sex change can change their sex on their birth certificate.” And the law allows government buildings to make further accommodations through the use of single-occupancy bathrooms.
The law strikes a reasonable compromise. It prevents biological males who identify as females from using women’s and girls’ private facilities in public schools and government offices, but it also allows local school officials and office managers to make reasonable accommodations for such students and employees. And it leaves private organizations free from government interference.
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That’s the main point of the Mississippi law as well: protecting non-governmental organizations from state coercion. It says that the state government will never penalize someone because they believe that marriage is the union of husband and wife, that sexual relations are reserved for marriage or that our sex is based on our biology.
It doesn’t say anyone has to believe these things; it just says that if someone does believe them, the government can’t discriminate against them. So the law takes nothing away from anyone; it simply protects pluralism.
The Mississippi law is based on the principle of protecting minority rights after major social change. In other states where marriage had been redefined, the government has penalized citizens and religious organizations who believe that marriage is a union of husband and wife. Bakers and florists have been fined, adoption agencies shuttered.
Mississippi legislators acted to make sure none of this ever happens in their state. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage, they protected their civil liberties.
Both the North Carolina and Mississippi laws are good policy. Yet both are being attacked by big business and special interests.
Many of us think that what these corporate giants are doing is bad for representative democracy and self-government. But they have a right to do it.
And yet, they want to deny the rights of bakers, florists, photographers, adoption agencies and marriage counselors.
Big business is using its market freedom to deny small businesses and charities their religious freedom. The hypocrisy is astounding. Bravo to Govs. McCrory and Bryant for standing up to it.
The Heritage Foundation
Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., is the author of “Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom.”