Tuesday, April 26, 2016

State of Panic

So, what happens when your state's legislative body calls a special session to pass a law no one needed in the span of time it normally takes to slow smoke a pork butt? The kindest description of the result I can think of is "higgledy piggledy."

Immediately, and frustratingly, the media got itself and the hoi polloi all worked up into a frenzy over transgender bathroom rights within nanoseconds of the governor signing House Bill 2 into law. Since then, all announcements about protesting performers, defunct business expansions, and cancelled conventions have cited the arguments of rainbow tolerance and the right to pee in the stall of your choosing as the causes for the loss of millions of dollars of revenues for the state.

But is that what HB2 is really about? What the NC Legislature did was to purposely serve up a heaping slice of turdcake coated in a saucy mixture of divisive controversy in the hopes the right, left and middle would argue ad nauseam about the sauce without realizing the main ingredient beneath that sauce is a turd. Essentially, Republican lawmakers baited the hook and the media went for it like a fat lazy bass, unwittingly helping misdirect the outcry over HB2 away from all the other things that are horribly wrong with the bill.

What is at the heart of it? A coordinated attack on municipal rights, workers' rights, fair wages and state-level legal recourse for victims of discrimination.

Don't believe me? Read the bill yourself. It won't take long. Not only wasn't there time between the official beginning of the transgender bathroom freakout and the governor blotting his signature dry for much to be written, the ideas expressed aren't very complex or carefully considered. Let's break it down.

Part One -- Single Sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom and Changing Facilities -- This part states you have to use the bathroom that matches the doohicky or hoohah you were born with, regardless of everything or anything that might have happened in your life or how badly you have to go. Part of me is okay with this, because it means it is now illegal for drunk women at concerts to raid the men's room just because the line is shorter. Sorry ladies, it's the law. Side benefits aside, however, this poorly thought through bit of fear-mongering legislation creates more problems than it solves, which isn't difficult because there was no problem to solve to begin with.

Part Two -- Statewide Consistencies in Laws Related to Contracting and Employment -- Local governments can't require contractors to treat their employees in ways that are more ethical than the state determines is good enough for the likes of them. If Charlotte, Raleigh or Greensboro wants to enact stricter regulations in order to provide an improved work environment and more competitive conditions, too bad. This is where HB2 breaks into its chorus of "the provisions of this article supersede and preempt any ordinance, regulation, resolution or policy adopted or imposed by a unit of local government." With that refrain, Republican lawmakers void all past, present and future workplace protections enacted by all local governments in all 100 North Carolina counties.

Part Three -- Protection of Rights in Employment and Public Accommodations -- Again we hear the "supersede and preempt" refrain, only this time it relates to discrimination. No local government can legally extend additional protections from discrimination to those afforded by the state. It also says if you do manage to have a provable case of discrimination, you can't file suit in North Carolina. Yup, the state is so concerned you might be discriminated against that it doesn't even want to hear about it, especially in any Tar Heel court. Additionally, it limits protection from discrimination to the following factors: race, religion, color, national origin, or biological sex. If you're disabled, you're screwed. If you're a veteran? You're also screwed. If you're a disabled veteran who happens to be gay, you don't stand a chance.

Part Four -- Severability -- Standard legal mumbo jumbo that means just because one part of the law is deemed unconstitutional, the rest of the parts remain in full effect. In other words, even if the ridiculous potty laws get tossed out by the courts, it won't impact the ridiculous employment laws restricting the governing rights of local governments and putting thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of working class North Carolinians at risk of discriminatory employer practices with no state-level legal recourse.

Look, I understand some people live sheltered lives and naively believe they don't know anyone who is homosexual or identifies sexually in ways that deviate from the "norm."

The idea of a man dressed as a woman who wants to use the women's bathroom, or vice versa, is a terrifying notion to these people. They see it as something perverse, different, and strange that needs to be policed, controlled and monitored. As someone who has seen more than his fair share of gas station bathrooms, trust me when I tell you a member of the opposite sex dropping a deuce in the neighboring stall is far from the worst thing you could experience in a public facility. Transgender people are people, and what they want to accomplish in the bathroom is the same thing you and I want to accomplish -- relieving ourselves without catching a third world fungus off the toilet seat.

When it comes down to it, you're more likely to be molested inside a church by a member of the clergy, or in a government office by a member of the Republican Party, than to be accosted by a transgender man or woman in a public bathroom. And you're certainly far more likely to get screwed by the lack of protections afforded by North Carolina's House Bill 2.

© 2016 Mark Feggeler

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