If you missed the news, even NASCAR has now come out against North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom” law, HB2. (See these reports from WRAL television, The News & Observer of Raleigh, and The Charlotte Observer.) Various businesses, sporting organizations, entertainers, and religious and secular human rights groups have called for the law’s repeal. But it seems unlikely that the legislature or governor will admit their mistake.
If you’ve been off-planet for a while, here’s a quick recap: Charlotte, the largest city in North Carolina, adopted a city ordinance that among other things explicitly allowed transexual persons to continue using the bathroom of their preference, just as they’ve been doing. This non-change provoked hysterical panic and fears of male pedophiles claiming to be transgender and going into women’s rooms to frighten or assault little girls and women.
The General Assembly reacted by holding a special session lasting just a few hours in order to pass a badly-thought-out bill (House Bill 2, or HB2) that prohibits North Carolina counties and cities from expanding civil rights to include sexual preference or transgender status. It also has the effect of blocking them from raising the local minimum wage (even if they have a much higher cost of living than the state average), and it prohibits people from suing in state court for workplace discrimination of any basis at all (race, sex, religion, etc.). Finally, it requires people using public restrooms in public buildings (such as schools and government offices) to use the restroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates as opposed to their actual sex and appearance. Some of these consequences were apparently not intended by the legislature but resulted from a hasty drafting of the statute.
Consider just the bathroom provisions alone:
As noted in this previous post, the law requires transgender men — men who generally look and dress like men and even grow beards — to use the women’s restroom if their birth certificate says they are female and the restroom in question is in a state or local government building. Thus the legislature requires the very thing it was in a panic to prevent. The law’s defenders respond that the law doesn’t actually have an enforcement mechanism (you’re not required to present a birth certificate to use a restroom), so it has no real effect. (Then why the frantic rush to pass it?) Also, the law’s defenders insist, persons born in North Carolina can often (provided they have the money for legal fees) change the gender on their birth certificates. They’re apparently not aware that people who were born in many other states, such as Tennessee, don’t have that option.
Furthermore, during all the many years prior to HB2, transgender persons were legally free to use the restroom of their choice — no law prevented it — and there were no resulting problems. Moreover, there are many places in the U.S. where state law or local ordinance granted the same explicit rights as the Charlotte ordinance, and again this has not been a problem. (Update 2016 May 9: On May 8, Fox New Sunday host Chris Wallace pointed this out to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who admitted that it’s true. So Wallace asked him why he can’t just “let it go.” Governor, if even Fox News and NASCAR think you’ve gone to far into the crazy extremes of the right, you might want to rethink your position.)
In brief, the main purpose of the law was to prevent something that has not been happening, but is has the effect of legally obligating some men to use the women’s restroom. I suspect that in practice they will ignore this ridiculous requirement, and so apparently do some legislative leaders who voted for the law and still absurdly try to claim that it’s “common sense.”
Despite the law’s serious and obvious problems, the General Assembly (now back in session) is clearly not going to repeal the law, at least given what the GOP leadership says.
(Updated 2016 May 8 to clarify that the restroom provisions apply only in state and local government buildings.)