The folly of forced tolerance: analyzing the fallout from HB2

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The pressure on North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory shows no signs of letting up. If anything, it’s growing.

Since HB2, which prevents municipalities in the state from creating their own rules to protect members of LGBT community, became law last week, McCrory has faced considerable corporate and public backlash. The ACLU also jumped into the fray by filing a lawsuit in response to the new law earlier this week.

Now Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has piled on by prohibiting publicly funded travel to the Tar Heel State.

“This law is not just wrong, it poses a public safety risk to Connecticut residents traveling through North Carolina,” Malloy said in a Hartford Courant story published yesterday. Essentially, the law puts everyone who goes there at risk, as well as those who live there, Malloy added.

According to published reports, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also taken steps to prevent “all nonessential, publicly funded travel” to North Carolina.

Yesterday, McCrory indicated that he’s had enough and fought back by calling his critics a bunch of hypocrites. If you haven’t already, you can read exactly what he had to say  in Politico by clicking the link in the preceding paragraph.

Sad But True

No one is disputing that it is the government’s job to protect vulnerable citizens. Sadly, no one can deny that we need tough laws to combat hate crimes and other heinous behavior that has no place in a civilized society.

From what I’ve read — and trust me, I’ve read a lot over the last week or so — I don’t think McCrory is denying any of that, either. It seems to me that the issue at the heart of the matter is not whom to protect, but how to protect everyone. What can be done — or more importantly — what should be done to balance LGBT rights with the general public’s rights?

Wrong Answer

Clearly North Carolina lawmakers came up with an imperfect solution — and McCrory didn’t do himself any favors by signing such a flawed bill into law.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

As far as I am concerned, the state has every right to regulate what transpires in its own facilities. So if the state wants to pass laws prohibiting transgender individuals from using restrooms that match their gender identities in state-owned buildings, so be it. If the state wants to pass laws calling for the creation of “gender neutral” restrooms in state-owned buildings, fine.

But allowing the state to prohibit individual municipalities from creating and enforcing their own rules regarding who can use which bathrooms is ridiculous.

If North Carolina communities are even remotely like those that I covered as a government reporter in New York, Connecticut and Virginia, each one has a town council, a city council or a similar governing body. Among other things that governing body, working with the mayor or town manager,  and municipal attorney is tasked with creating the rules and regulations (ordinances) for that community. Whenever a new rule is proposed, there is a series of public discussions. During those discussions — usually held at regularly scheduled meetings or special hearings — residents  can share their comments, concerns and opinions. Representatives from other groups that could potentially be impacted by the new rules — can also speak during that time.

In other words, it is an incredibly comprehensive process where everyone has an opportunity to have their say before the governing body votes on the matter. And that’s exactly as it should be.

A Losing Battle?

Figuring out how to balance the rights of the LGBT community with those of the general public is a dilemma that local and state lawmakers across the country have already grappled with, and it is one that more will face as the push for LGBT rights continues.

Figuring out how to put an end to the ignorance and hate that plagues so much of this country is another matter altogether. The only way to start is to encourage an open, honest and objective dialogue. That means taking emotion out of the equation. And therein lies the problem. Human beings are inherently emotional animals. Hate is an incredibly powerful emotion. So is fear.

So our options are limited. But I firmly believe the following:

  • We can and should continue to put laws on the books to discourage hateful people from acting on their feelings.
  • We can and should continue to ensure that harsh penalties are in place for those who do.
  • We can and should create and fund programs that promote understanding, compassion and tolerance.
  • We can and should instill those values in our children.
  • Instead of focusing on our similarities, we can and should learn to respect each others’ differences — even if we don’t understand them.
  • We can and should lead by example.

Regretfully I also believe that at the end of the day, we can’t morally or legally force anyone to exercise tolerance, compassion or understanding if they lack the basic desire or ability to do so.

And as far as I’m concerned, to think otherwise is sheer folly.

 

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