Nel's New Day

April 29, 2016

Thanks to the Bathroom Police, No One Is Safe

Thank you, religious conservatives. You have now given police the right to drag women out of a woman’s bathroom. Here’s a video showing this happening. Oxford (AL) has passed a law allowing transgender people who use the “wrong” bathroom—in the city’s eyes—to be jailed. That was after North Carolina passed draconian laws, including the one keeping transgender people out of facilities that match their gender identities, and then got it signed in less than 12 hours in a special session. That may be fastest that legislators have ever moved.

When North Carolina lawmakers came back into session last Monday, police arrested 54 protesters. People should use the ballot box for their protests, common wisdom has sometimes decreed, but that’s close to impossible in North Carolina because the GOP passed laws to keep progressives from voting. Judge Thomas Schroeder supported the conservatives, eviscerating voting rights for the state’s residents. In his ruling, George W. Bush’s appointee found “little official discrimination to consider” and left in place one of the most regressive and restrictive voting laws in the country that disenfranchised 218,000 North Carolinians, about five percent of registered voters, in the recent primary.

Voter ID laws were enforced differently across the state, polling workers were untrained or overworked, and some voters weren’t allowed to cast provisional ballots. In Durham, the county board of elections had failed to record the correct location of precincts.    Schroeder’s ruling will certainly be appealed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, but a solution may be too late for the 2016 general election. Another problem for overturning the North Carolina bathroom law is the GOP gerrymandering of election districts after the Tea Party took over in the Democratic rout of 2010.

The new law eliminates a Charlotte ordinance that expanded protections for LGBT people, but it goes far beyond just “bathrooms.” No city or county can extend state laws in eradicating discrimination in the workplace and public accommodations. In addition, the minimum wage of $7.25, required by the federal government, cannot be increased anywhere in the state.

North Carolina lawmakers filed legislation Monday to repeal the state’s law, which, since its passage last month, but GOP legislators, in the majority, oppose this attempt. Lawsuits such as the ones filed by the ACLU and Lambda Legal may have a better result as might written requests for the law’s repeal. Thus far, 180 businesses have joined to pressure Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature, and a coalition of civil rights, faith and business leaders delivered more than 150,000 signatures to the governor’s office, urging a repeal of the law.

The danger of going to North Carolina and Mississippi which has passed a similar anti-LGBT law under the guise of “religious liberty” has traveled far and wide. The British Foreign Office has updated its travel advisories to caution LGBT travelers about travel in these two states because businesses may refuse service to anyone based on personal beliefs. Small businesses in North Carolina have already started losing business. Outfitter Bicycle Tours reports that inquiries about Asheville area bicycle tours are down by one third. The owner has changed his advertising on social media to tours in California, France, and Italy.

Four conferences in Raleigh which would have brought in $3.5 million have been canceled or scaled back. Cancellation of these conventions and concerts, started by Bruce Springsteen, hurt restaurants, hotels, and small businesses. Twelve groups have canceled events in Wake County, and another 31 are reconsidering their plans, costing the area $36 million. The travel industry brings the state about $21 billion each year.

Recruiting employees is now another problem for North Carolina companies. A big industry in the state is craft beer brewing, but owners fear that people experienced in beer making will be more attracted to California and Colorado after the new law was passed.

The economy several years ago boosted North Carolina, the first Southern state to invest heavily in public and secondary education. By the election of the Tea Party in 2010 and McCrory in 2012, the legislature had raised its Moody’s rating to a triple-A bond because it balanced the state’s books and filled up the rainy day fund. The new GOP regime wiped out services for the poor, hacking away at unemployment benefits and reducing per-pupil-spending by $500 while refusing to expand Medicaid.

toilet paperIn a move reminiscent of the “Flush Rush [Limbaugh]” boycott five years ago, a North Carolina-based advertising agency wants to send the new law down the toilet. Durham-based agency McKinney explained that they are making this action “safer for city plumbing” by printing the law “on rolls of toilet paper.”

After one month of the law, $500 million in corporate investment and tourism dollars are at risk, and as many as 1,000 high-paying jobs, including 400 from a PayPal expansion, have been lost. The National Basketball Association announced that the 2017 All-Star Game won’t be played in Charlotte unless the law is overturned. Google refuses more venture capital in the state, movie-making will be moved out of the state, and the furniture market, an economic cornerstone, will lose thousands of buyers.

Tracking these laws shows that influence from a well-funded network of lawyers called Alliance Defending Freedom is coordinating the cross-country discrimination. Based in Arizona, the group has more than 3,000 allied attorneys and offices around the world headed by Alan Sears, a former Justice Department official under President Ronald Reagan. ADF claims involvement in 47 Supreme Court victories, including the Boy Scouts win in banning LGBT people as troop leaders. It describes gay sex as “a distinct public health problem” and defended business owners who deny services to same-gender couples.

Over a year ago, ADF sent letters to school districts recommending a policy that requires transgender students to use private bathrooms or those that correspond with their birth sex. Many lawmakers mirror or copy ADF’s draft in their own bills. North Carolina is one of those states. So are Nevada and Minnesota. Kansas state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook said that they used the ADF model legislation. ADF also offers free legal representation to any district sued for blocking trans students from bathrooms of their choice. The group also sent letters to school administrators in five states, pushing them to overturn policies that would permit trans students to use facilities corresponding with their gender identities.

ADF’s website states that the group “refrains from participating in or promoting any type of legislation” and “does not lobby government officials.” Yet its lawyers have offered testimony and legal analysis to state legislatures in Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Colorado in favor of restrictive bathroom bills and against legislation that protect gay and transgender people from discrimination. Perhaps not coincidentally, one of the first states to seriously consider a bathroom bill, back in 2013, was Arizona—where the ADF is headquartered.

A counter-backlash has evolved from individuals and organizations supporting the rights of transgender people. The Gill Foundation recently funded a study examining methods of changing voters’ minds about transgender people through door-to-door canvassing. Freedom for All Americans’ Transgender Freedom Project focuses on building support for transgender people and nondiscrimination laws that protect them. Organizations are collecting stories of transgender people and holding training sessions to use for media campaigns and rallying at statehouses. The Arcus Foundation and the NoVo Foundation have begun a multi-year $20 million project to increase visibility as well as the quality of life for transgender people globally.

Kendall BalentineKendall Balentine, resolved to live her retirement quietly in Deadwood (SD), spoke out after her state legislature passed a bill forcing transgender students into bathrooms wrong for their gender identities. The former Marine and deputy sheriff decided she would put herself into harm once again to fight for people without a voice. She has joined a movement to expand minority civil rights protections to transgender people.

Balentine met with Gov. Dennis Daugaard and told him that she compensated for her feminine feelings as a child by becoming an “uber male.” After her disciplinarian, Vietnam-veteran dad told her that her feelings about being a girl were unwelcome and unnatural, she dated many women, immersed herself in athletics, and volunteered for the riskiest assignments in the military and law enforcement. Her “wall of lies” made her “want to die.” She moved with her wife Pam to an isolated property near Mt. Rushmore and decided to transition. Her wife stayed with her, and her father accepted her. One week after Balentine talked with Daugaard, he vetoed the bill to discriminate against transgender people.

Tomorrow: How the new hate laws endanger the health and lives of transgender people.

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