Much about North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” befuddles me.
Let’s start with the General Assembly, which passed a law whose immediate purpose was to overturn a Charlotte ordinance allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their choice.
The Republican Party I grew up in believed that local government governed best because it was closest to the people. In this way of thinking, a town council is superior to a county board of commissioners, which is superior to a state legislature, which is superior, certainly, to Congress.
I tend to think that’s the case, which leads me to believe that Charlotte leaders know what their city wants better than state lawmakers. And if that isn’t the case – if Charlotte leaders are out of touch with the majority of their residents – then Charlotte voters are free to elect a new, more like-minded council in the next election.
But this General Assembly, controlled by Republicans, thinks it knows cities and towns better than the elected leaders of cities and towns. This General Assembly has enacted laws restricting cities and towns on such matters as annexation, taxation and, now, restrooms.
I am puzzled too by some of the reaction to the General Assembly’s repeal of the Charlotte ordinance. In particular, many big businesses are chastising North Carolina for passing the bathroom bill. One, PayPal, said it was backing off plans for a North Carolina expansion that would have brought 400 jobs to the Tar Heel State.
But as best I can tell, nothing in the bathroom bill keeps businesses from allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their choice. Indeed, since passage of the law, I’ve heard that many small businesses have made their restrooms gender neutral. If all businesses are free to do that, why the big-business fuss?
It seems odd too that big business, usually no fan of having rules forced on it, would want the City of Charlotte to, well, force bathroom rules on businesses.
Over the weekend, I read that the composer and lyricist of such Broadway hits as “Wicked” and “Godspell” was moving to bar all North Carolina theater groups from producing any of his shows, and he was encouraging other writers and composers to join him.
I don’t know why Stephen Schwartz, the composer in question, would punish North Carolina theater groups for a law they had no role in passing. In my experience as a longtime Neuse Little Theatre volunteer, theater types are some of the most inclusive people I know, so punishing them seems especially wrong-headed.
Personally, I don’t care who uses the restroom I’m using, but opponents of the bathroom bill apparently don’t see the irony of their own intolerance of people wary of their viewpoint. Again, I don’t care if a woman who identifies as a man uses the restroom I’m using. But I can see where the mother of a young daughter might object to opening the women’s restroom to a man who now identifies as a woman.
Opponents of the bill will say such moms are simply ignorant. But even if that’s the case, that doesn’t negate these mothers’ concerns. Equally important, if many North Carolinians are ignorant about the transgender, isn’t it the responsibility of the transgender community and its supporters to educate them?
And I guess that’s my final point. I don’t know the background of the Charlotte ordinance, but for North Carolina’s General Assembly to have acted so quickly and so decisively, I can’t help but believe that Charlotte’s education efforts were lacking.
And that’s what is missing from this sorry episode in North Carolina’s present. Whether in Charlotte or Raleigh, our elected leaders are acting before they make much effort to educate the people they supposedly represent. The result, as you might have noticed, is proving bad for North Carolina and its people.