N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore is apparently spending the weekend assessing how many of his fellow Republican House members want to come back for a special session focused on who goes into Charlotte restrooms. If he gets a yes from enough members, he’ll take it up with the Senate leadership and North Carolina may witness a truly historic event, a bathroom session.
Regardless of whether the session takes place, it’s discouraging that Moore is even taking a count. The speaker of the House is supposed to lead lawmakers. That means steering clear of actions and votes that diminish the institution and put it in service to partisan pandering.
A special session is being weighed in response to a provision of Charlotte’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance that protects the rights of lesbians, gay, transgender and bisexual people. The ordinance accords LGBT people the same protections from discrimination accorded other minority groups. It also allows transgender people to use either a men’s or women’s bathroom, depending on the gender with which they identify. The ordinance will take affect April 1. The legislature won’t begin its regular session until April 25.
This is the first such ordinance in North Carolina, but similar laws have been passed elsewhere without any danger to the public. Nonetheless, Republicans sense an election-year wedge issue. So-called “bathroom law” battles also are underway in South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, USA Today reports.
Apart from the ridiculousness of a special session on bathrooms, the Republican opposition has two basic problems.
First, a statewide ban is another case of state lawmakers overriding the power of local governments. Republicans say they are against top-down mandates and meddling in local affairs. But this Republican-led legislature has been especially quick to overpower local governments
Second, a statewide ban on local laws allowing transgender people to choose their restroom would no doubt draw a legal challenge and could jeopardize federal education funding as a violation of Title IX protections against gender discrimination.
The state Attorney General’s Office lists 17 areas where its lawyers have recently defended the constitutionality of state legislation. Those include challenges to school vouchers, to the right of magistrates to opt out of involvement in same sex marriages, to new voting laws and redistricting lines, to abortion restrictions and ending teacher tenure. Lawmakers should concentrate on making legal laws, not political statements that later get struck down.