We all celebrated last summer when the Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage as a constitutional right nationwide. It was a hard-earned and emotional victory after so many years of fighting for LGBT equality. Scoops of I Dough, I Dough were raised throughout the land.
Despite the joy and and sense of achievement, we knew that the broader battle had yet to be won. In fact, it was clear right away that the Supreme Court’s decision would prompt a backlash. Much work remained to be done.
A horrific case in point: the radical anti-transgender bill that North Carolina governor Pat McCory signed into law last week.
CAROLINA ON OUR MIND
The North Carolina legislation goes farther than any other in the country to trample on LGBT rights. Among other awful things, it makes it illegal for cities and counties to enact their own antidiscrimination policies or LGBT protections. Even worse, it bans transgender people from using restrooms that match their gender, unless they’ve changed their birth certificate.
DOWNRIGHT SNEAKY INTRODUCTION
Beyond all that (because yes, it gets more terrible), here’s what makes this bill a true travesty. It was introduced in a hastily called special session on Wednesday morning, its language having been made public only minutes beforehand. Many lawmakers never even had a chance to read it. And because there was only a half hour, total, allotted for public comment, people, organizations, and businesses had no real opportunity to weigh in on its contents. Later that night, after the bill passed the Republican-controlled North Carolina house and senate, the governor signed it into law.
Pretty despicable, North Carolina. Since no one had a chance to oppose this state-sponsored discrimination, their government chose for them. Does that sound like democracy?
NORTH CAROLINA IS NOT THE ONLY STATE DOING THIS
Georgia recently passed similar anti-trans legislation, though the circumstances there demonstrate why allowing for debate and public comment is so critical.
Georgia’s hateful bill—which was spun, as such things often are, as a defense of religious liberty—would have opened the door to mistreatment of LGBT individuals and families, as well as many others, by allowing taxpayer-funded organizations to refuse services to LGBT couples as well as single parents.
BUT PEOPLE & COMPANIES STOOD UP TO HATRED
Groups opposed to the legislation in Georgia quickly mobilized and soon even large corporations were inveighing against it. Titans like Disney and the NFL threatened to boycott Georgia if the governor signed the bill into law. Bigotry is bad for business.
North Carolina should pay attention, because as it turns out, giving people a chance to read, review, and comment on legislation can really make a difference. On Monday, March 28, Georgia governor Nathan Deal bowed to the immense and still-building pressure and vetoed the measure, saying “I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia.”
THE ANTI-LGBT BILLS KEEP COMING
With his veto, Governor Deal joins the Republican governor of South Dakota, Dennis Daugaard, who turned back anti-LGBT legislation earlier in March. But the fight against discrimination is by no means over. We already know about the outrageous new North Carolina law. Similar, if not quite as odious, legislation is in the works in a host of states.
LEGISLATORS SURE CARE A LOT ABOUT TOILETS
According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than 115 anti-LGBT bills were introduced in 2015, with a surprising focus on restrooms. The trend is the same in 2016, with something like 27 states expected to either introduce new bills or continue working on bills proposed last year. Some examples:
- In Kansas, legislation is pending that would actually give $2500, plus “monetary damages for all psychological, emotional and physical harm suffered as a result of a violation of this section,” to any student who encounters a transgender peer in a restroom.
- A Tennessee bill that would have forced transgender students to use the restroom that matches their biological sex at birth died in committee in late March. The governor had expressed reservations about the bill, but some lawmakers are attempting even now to revive the bill.
- Nine anti-gay and anti-trans bills, as of earlier this year, were introduced in Virginia. One even imposes a $50 fine on any student found to be using the “wrong” bathroom.
Who knew that restrooms were on the minds of so many state legislators? This wave of transphobic, fear-mongering legislation shows no signs of slowing down. We say it’s time for our leaders to get their heads out of the toilet.
SWEET SUCCESS – IF YOU LIKE DISCRIMINATION
You can be sure that activists are not the only ones to have taken a lesson from what happened in North Carolina and Georgia. Proponents of anti-LGBT bills are likely to attempt to duplicate North Carolina’s “success” in their own states, and nothing succeeds, from the standpoint of those pushing discriminatory legislation, like shutting the public out of the legislative process.
All of this legislation sends one very clearly hateful message to the LGBT community. LGBT youth, especially, need to know that all people, no matter who they are or who they love, are deserving of dignity and respect.
SHOW SOME LOVE!
That’s why we have to stay vigilant and fight back against hate speech, in all its forms (including legislation). Check out the Human Rights Campaign to view resources on state-by-state protections against discrimination, support the Equality Act and find out how you can get involved in your own state.