Carolina controversy: bathroom bills raise questions of safety, privacy

Credit: amboo who via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).
Credit: amboo who via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

.- The overturn of a Charlotte, North Carolina ordinance allowing biological males to enter women’s restrooms helps offer important protections against sexual predators, said family advocacy groups this week.

“The (original) Charlotte ordinance jeopardized the safety of women, and children,” Tami L. Fitzgerald executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, told CNA March 29. “It would have allowed any man in any woman’s bathroom, locker or shower room at any time where women and young girls would be in various stages of undress and be exposed or exposed to. The governor and state legislature were right to intervene and block it.”

Fitzgerald was responding to the passage of House Bill 2 by the North Carolina General Assembly on March 23, which blocked a Charlotte City Council Ordinance that would have gone into effect on April 1.

The nondiscrimination ordinance involved housing, employment and public facilities. It would have allowed individuals to use bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities that corresponded with their self-perceived “gender identity,” even if this differs from their biological sex.

Fitzgerald cautioned that the ordinance could have been used by sexual predators as a license to harm women and children.

The ordinance was met with widespread opposition. In North Carolina, 69 percent were in favor of repealing the Charlotte ordinance, according to a poll by Survey USA, sponsored by the Civitas Institute.

In response, House Bill 2, also known as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory after a decisive vote in favor, with the House 83-25 and the Senate 32-0.

The law blocks the Charlotte ordinance and explicitly clarifies that individuals are to use public locker rooms and restrooms corresponding to their biological sex, as designated on their birth certificate.

“Even 12 Democrats crossed over to help pass the bill,” noted Fitzgerald. “This is not a partisan issue but a commonsense issue. You just don’t allow men in women’s bathrooms.”

John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, told CNA March 30 that the Charlotte ordinance would have put the religious freedom of business owners at risk.

“The Charlotte ordinance is the type of measure that has been used in cities across the nation to go after florists, bakers, photographers, bed and breakfast owners, and small business owners who refuse to comply with a radical definition of sexuality and gender identity,” Rustin said.

“These small business owners have been sued and vilified because they have refused to use their gifts and talents, whether it is to bake a cake, take pictures or what have you, and participate in a same-sex ceremony because it violates their religious beliefs about what marriage truly is – the union of one man and one woman.”

But the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina disagrees and filed a lawsuit March 28 against the state, claiming it discriminates against the LGBT community. According to the lawsuit, the bill violates the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX.  

Kellie Fiedorek, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said that the lawsuit is “completely meritless and contradicts the commonsense principle that men and women need to have privacy and safety when entering an intimate setting.”

“This is not a violation of the Equal Protection Clause because under North Carolina law, everyone is treated the same,” she told CNA.

“The law simply looks at biology as stated on a person’s birth certificate and is blind to any other characteristic,” she said. “This is the only sensible and enforceable policy that has worked for hundreds of years. And the law also offers accommodations for those with special circumstances.”

Fiedorek also said that Title IX does not require schools to open restrooms to members of the opposite sex. Rather, it “specifically allows schools to provide separate bathrooms, showers and locker rooms on campus on the basis of biological sex.”

“Since Title IX became law almost 44 years ago, federal courts have consistently ruled in favor of schools having the right to adopt these privacy policies,” she continued.

At a news conference on March 29, State Attorney General Roy Cooper sided with the ACLU and said House Bill 2 is “discriminatory” and will hurt North Carolina’s economy. He vowed to repeal it and “restore North Carolina’s national reputation.”

Since signing the bill into law, Governor McCrory has received numerous boycott threats from companies and franchises.

More than 90 business leaders – including those from Google Ventures, Starbucks, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Accenture – have called for the repeal of the law, saying that it “sanctioned discrimination.”

Threats of boycotting the state have followed with San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee issuing an order banning federal employees from traveling to North Carolina. The NBA also threatened to move the 2017All-Star Game out of Charlotte.  

Indiana and Georgia also recently received boycott threats from major corporations, including Apple, Disney and the NFL, after trying to enact laws protecting religious freedom.

Ryan T. Anderson, the William E. Simon senior research fellow in American principles and public policy at The Heritage Foundation, warned that some businesses are unjustly trying to impose their values on society.

“Big business should not get to dictate what our laws are going to be,” Anderson said. “We are now seeing the emergence of what I call a ‘cultural cronyism,’ which is similar to crony capitalism, whereby big business colludes with big government to get its way. In this instance, big business is trying to get the government to impose its cultural values and its definition of sexuality.”

Anderson said that these broad anti-discrimination measures are being used by activists to expand upon their same-sex marriage victory at the Supreme Court.

“These anti-discrimination ordinances include sexual orientation and gender identity so that anyone who does not comply will be accused of discrimination. It is a way to eliminate dissent.”

While the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of same-sex civil marriage, Anderson stressed that “freedom is a two-way street” that should respect all people.

“People should be free to live how they want to live,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that we should rush in and allow biological males to have unfettered access to women and children’s bathrooms or that we should be shutting down Catholic adoption agencies opposed to helping same-sex couples adopt a child, or penalize schools that won’t employ teachers who undermine their religious teachings.”

Noting that the majority of people in North Carolina had opposed the original Charlotte ordinance, Anderson said that “the battle with the American people has not been lost” and urged public officials to be brave in overcoming threats from big business.

“The American people are in favor of laws that protect their religious freedom and the safety of women and children in restrooms,” he said. “It is the elites that are not. Public officials will need courage not to be bullied into submission – whether it is by corporate elites, media elites or Hollywood elite – to enact policies that preserve the common good.”

Tags: Religious freedom, Transgender, Bathroom bills