It didn’t take long.
Within hours of an action by the Charlotte City Council to ensure rights for gay, lesbian and transgender people, Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders pounced. Here was a chance to take advantage of a divisive, emotional and ideological issue in time for the 2016 campaign. It had exactly what Republicans like, an opportunity to go negative while managing to act pious and attacking a relatively small and, politically speaking, weak group of people.
The city of Charlotte is facing a divisive issue with gumption. The city council voted to install new legal protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people. It’s basically a nondiscrimination ordinance, adding those individuals to laws with established protections against discrimination based on race, gender, age and religion.
The law applies to public places such as bars, restaurants and stores. It also applies to taxis.
While this seems a logical extension of civil rights protections, one part of the ordinance is igniting controversy. It would allow transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.
Enter McCrory, the former Charlotte mayor, who seized on the issue, doubtless on the advice of a political strategist. McCrory reckoned that the legislature, known for its penchant for interfering in local government, would get on this issue right away. House Speaker Tim Moore, not interested in reasonable discussion or mindful of the Charlotte council’s right to determine local ordinances, said the General Assembly would take care of this business.
The Charlotte ordinance isn’t some casual, reckless, in-the-dead-of-night action.
The council debate was intense and reflected the feelings of opponents, the Charlotte Observer reported. Some say that women and girls might fear for their safety sharing a public bathroom with those who were born male. But advocates say that transgender people could be at risk themselves if, for example, a male transgender person identifying as female and dressed as a female were forced to use a men’s bathroom.
The bottom line is that those who have expressed opinions on both sides have legitimate points of concern, and each side ought to respect the opinions of the other.
The Charlotte council, duly elected by the people of the city, has chosen to address this issue Charlotte’s decision could be valuable as a test for other cities, demonstrating the positive and negatives of such an ordinance.