In the span of twelve hours, North Carolina legislators (mostly Republicans, aided by a handful of House Democrats) transformed their state into one of the most heavily anti-LGBT states in the country.
And they did it while rejecting the premise of decentralized, local governance that conservatives so frequently harp on when the federal government does something they don’t like.
The story developed quickly, and it goes like this:
On Wednesday, the General Assembly was called back to Raleigh for a special session to consider legislation written by Republican leadership in response to a non-discrimination ordinance passed by Charlotte, North Carolina last month. That ordinance would have taken effect on April 1, and expanded existing LGBT non-discrimination protections to, among other things, allow transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identities.
The bill did more than simply block Charlotte’s ordinance from taking effect, though. It prohibited any North Carolina city from passing any non-discrimination ordinance broader than the state’s existing protections. Additionally, the law imposes specific regulations on public bathrooms across the state. Those regulations specify that a person must use bathrooms corresponding to the gender they were assigned at birth. As TalkingPointsMemo reader SM pointed out, “by law in NC now, transgender porn star Buck Angel (look him up) will have to use the women’s room…isn’t that precisely what these lawmakers are actually wanting to prevent?”
I looked him up. This is Buck Angel. Republican lawmakers just made it illegal for him to use the men’s bathroom, and mandatory that he use the women’s bathroom:
Finally, just for good measure, the bill also prohibits localities from raising their minimum wages above the level set by the state. You know, so those who voted for the bill can say that it wasn’t about rank transphobia, but was instead about their principled and paternalistic belief that local governance is bad — that is, when local governments pass progressive policies.
When other states have tried to pass anti-LGBT legislation since the Obergefell ruling, they have often faced stiff and organized opposition from activists, community leaders and, perhaps most importantly, the business community — opposition that has at times prevented such legislation from passing. In this case, the legislation was rushed through in a special session of the General Assembly, likely for the express purpose of avoiding that kind of opposition.
It would have been bad enough had the General Assembly blocked Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance based on a thoroughly-debunked myth about trans women. As Chris Kluwe pointed out on Twitter, “you’re more likely to be propositioned by a Republican lawmaker in a bathroom than a trans person.” But what could otherwise have been a mean-spirited attempt to deny trans people in Charlotte protection from discrimination was instead a mean-spirited coup that left all LGBT people throughout North Carolina without the possibility of basic protections in housing or hiring discrimination — along with backward mandates that force people into the wrong bathrooms.
Makes absolutely no sense.