By Samir Shukla
So you may have heard. Charlotte's Democratic mayor, Jennifer Roberts and the city council passed an anti-discrimination ordinance a few months back that, among other LGBT protections, made it illegal for businesses with public bathrooms to discriminate against transgendered people who want to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. It seemed like a thoughtful gesture for this multi-identifier world we live in. Although, arguably, it was also a bit of the old solution looking for a problem, as there wasn't any evidence of mass discrimination of transgendered folks looking to use the bathroom of their choice. The total number of transgendered people in this country is miniscule and only a small percentage of those live in North Carolina. Even smaller amounts live in Charlotte. Any discrimination on any level must be fought, but it could be argued that the ordinance was rather unnecessary.
Enter North Carolina's Republican governor, Pat McCrory and the Republican-led State legislature sitting in the state capitol of Raleigh. They would not have it. No sireee. How dare Charlotte, that liberal bastion, poke a stick in the eye of the God-fearing North Carolinians around the state with such a left-of-left ordinance? Within a blink of an eye the Raleigh posse passed House Bill 2, or more affectionately known as HB2, a sweeping bill to overturn Charlotte's ordinance and, just for good measure, they peppered the bill with a few more belligerent additives.
The infamous “North Carolina bathroom bill" was born. Their argument? We can't have dudes in dainty dresses entering the ladies' room lest they decide to molest unsuspecting women or girls using the same restroom.
Now, of course, the President has chimed in. Obama's Justice Dept. gave North Carolina an ultimatum to rescind HB2 lest they want to lose federal funding for practicing overt discrimination. This was met with NC countersuing the feds. Charlotte and the State are already entangled in a quasi-legal web and now with the feds chiming in, this has blasted NC into a national controversy. What an ungodly mess.
Here's the blowback from HB2: Bands and musicians are cancelling gigs in NC in protest. PayPal withdrew its plans to open an office in Charlotte. The NBA pulled its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte.
Late night talk shows are having a blast joking about the bill. CEOs are chiming in with more economic threats.
This ordinance and the counter punch of HB2 are a bad business move to be blamed on both the Charlotte officials and those sitting in Raleigh. HB2 is an asinine law forcing bogus morality in the guise of protecting privacy. Mayor Roberts meant well by signing the ordinance, but she is also a woman of further political ambitions and is playing out this political card. She seems to be looking to increase her profile for not this year's election, but the one four years from now in 2020. The governor's office will once again be contested as well as one of the state's two Senate seats. It would be a fair argument to say she has her sight set on chasing one of those.
Of course the governor and legislature took the mayor and the city's ordinance (bait?) and opened a hornet's nest. They unleashed HB2, a mini hurricane that immediately planted a detrimental effect on the state's economy while tossing its reputation as a forward-gazing southern state into the gurgling bowels of social media nastiness. Oh how the clouds are darkening our part of the lovely Sunbelt, dividing people, pitching friend against friend, all for what should be a simple matter of relief when nature calls. In this year of never before seen national and regional political madness, NC has landed a double punch of political and legal absurdities. The progressives are crying foul; the conservatives are crying foul; businesses are crying foul. There are more fouls being called than a hoops game between Duke and Carolina.
The political ambitions and maneuverings of a mayor, city council, governor, and state legislature have made a mockery of common sense. The only people smiling right now are the lawyers on either side, happily talking about taking this matter to the Supreme Court. Yeah, you know the one that is evenly divided right now, missing one of their justices, and practically telling everyone waving a lawsuit, hey, don't call us we'll call you.
HB2 has created all sorts of potential legal quandaries. Public restrooms are the focal point for sure, but college and pro-sports locker rooms and showers could also be affected by the requirement of HB2 only allowing access to these facilities as mandated by the gender checked on one's birth certificate.
So, Charlotte city council and Mayor Roberts heed my words. Governor McCrory, you, yeah you, the former moderate and beloved mayor of Charlotte, I know you are in a tough reelection cycle, but how about showing us that old, problem solving Mayor Pat again. And you, NC state legislature, stop your bumbling and ineptitude and wake up.
The hornets, um, lawyers are swarming. Negative economic impact on North Carolina grows by the day. Sit down at the table, take a breather, come up with a compromise and make your peace. This trench warfare has no potential winner, but instead a big loser called North Carolina.
Hang in there my fair North Carolina. You have made it through a lot worse – civil war, hurricanes, droughts and floods. What's a little tinkle controversy?
In the meantime, all this thinking and talking about this issue has really activated my bladder. You know that lovely Oak tree at the end of the parking lot looks like a pretty good spot right about now.
Samir Shukla is the editor of Saathee Magazine
By Samir Shukla