Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bathroom Republicans Sing Old Songs with New Refrains

To paraphrase the TV ad: what's in your stall? You might respond that it is none of my effing business and you would be right. But the real answer is: Republican legislators - now in North Carolina and Georgia and soon to come to a state near you. Mary Sanchez takes on this matter in an op-ed this morning in the Daily Star.

Across the land, heroic male legislators are rising up to protect the lives and virtue of women and girls from sexual predators.

They are not, as one might hope, enacting laws that would prevent men convicted of domestic violence from owning firearms, even though that would surely save precious female lives.

Nor are they working with colleges and universities to ensure fair investigations of campus sexual assault, even though this would greatly help many a female coed. And, alas, they aren’t doing anything to help or prod police agencies to process the backlogs of rape kits, even though this would surely put many more violent sex offenders behind bars.

No, the state legislators — instigated mostly by Republican members — are obsessed with women and girls’ use of the bathroom. They’re freaked out that someone who was born male but who now identifies as female could wind up in the neighboring stall.

WTF? The male GOPlins are riding to the defense of female bathrooms? They have nothing better to do? There used to be two kinds of Republicans: boardroom and bedroom. Now we have Bathroom Republicans.

North Carolina passed the kind of law that Sanchez references. CNN has a recap of the law and a lawsuit.

A federal lawsuit was filed Monday against the North Carolina governor and other state officials over a new law that blocks transgender individuals from using public bathrooms that match their gender identity and stops cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances to protect gay and transgender people.

Two transgender men, a lesbian, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and Equality North Carolina want a judge to declare the state law, House Bill 2, unconstitutional and a violation of federal laws banning sex discrimination.

... The defendants are Gov. Pat McCrory, state Attorney General Roy Cooper III, the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina and board Chairman W. Louis Bissette Jr. Two of the plaintiffs are university system employees, and one is a university student.

McCrory signed the bill, called the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, on Wednesday. The General Assembly went into special session that day to push through the legislation.

The law came in response to the city of Charlotte's nondiscrimination ordinance that, among other things, made it possible for transgender individuals to use public bathrooms of the sex with which they identify.

So in addition to the specific issue concerning transgender use of "public" bathrooms, there is the issue of Republican hypocrisy over local control. Republican legislators rail against federal overreach but then act as authoritarians when it comes to local government.

Governor Pat "Bathroom" McCrory showed no spine at all in signing this travesty. Contrast that with what the Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, did.

Georgia's term-limited Gov. Nathan Deal took a stand against his own party and averted threatened boycotts by major corporations on Monday by announcing his veto of a "religious freedom" bill.

"I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia," the Republican governor declared.

... "If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should heed the 'hands-off' admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution," Deal said. "When legislative bodies attempt to do otherwise, the inclusions and omissions in their statutes can lead to discrimination, even though it may be unintentional. That is too great a risk to take."

Deal's veto stands in sharp contrast to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory's signature last week on a law that prohibits local anti-discrimination ordinances and obligates transgender people to use restrooms matching their birth certificates. The outcomes highlight the increasing conflicts between the twin pillars of the GOP's power structure — religion and business — in legislatures where Republicans have overwhelming majorities.

Unfortunately, Deal's veto is not the last word. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's plan to veto a "religious freedom" bill has supporters vowing that the issue isn't going away. Moreover, other states are doing the same things.

North Carolina and Georgia aren't alone in their efforts to curb policies based on gender identity and weigh in on transgender bathroom use.

Tennessee and Arkansas have laws that prevent local governments from creating their own measures outlawing such discrimination.

Sanchez nails it.

Here is what proponents of the bills do not tell you: Sexual orientation and gender identity are not universally protected in America. In many cities and states, you can be fired or denied housing simply because the boss or seller or landlord believes that you are gay.

The lack of legal protection for the LGBT people is what these disingenuous legislators are using as a basis for further deceiving constituents. They want the right to discriminate, enshrined, and in many cases, codified, as a religious right, even when they are operating in a public square.

Sanchez concludes:

That’s what is most offensive — invoking God as a pretext.

Those who stood for slavery and against civil rights tried that ploy. Proponents of the anti-LGBT measures don’t like the comparison, but the shoe fits.

Ratcheting up fears in response to social change and then claiming that it’s your religious right to discriminate is an old trick. Alongside housing covenants, bank redlining and scare tactics about crime, including sexual assault by black men, these arguments were shamefully hypocritical. These are old songs, with new refrains.

Old songs with new refrains. Sanchez's op-ed reminded me of Joan Baez's song "With God on Our Side". She sings it here on YouTube and some of the lyrics are below.

Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And the land that I live in
Has God on its side.

Selected refrains:
With guns in their hands
And God on their side.
For you don't count the dead
When God's on your side.
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side.

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