Any absolute stance on transgender bathroom rights is pointless

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“This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms.  This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens, and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them – indeed, to protect all of us.”  — Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.

With all due respect, Ms. Lynch — you just don’t get it. Oh, I’m sure you mean well. But you’re deeply misguided at best. At worst, you’re an absolute idiot.

Having said that, you are right about one thing. The current transgender bathroom law debate is about much more than bathrooms.

But that’s it. You’re completely wrong about everything else.

You see the question isn’t whether transgender people should be treated fairly. Of course they should. That goes without saying. The question isn’t whether transgender people should be allowed to have access to public restrooms  matching the gender with which they self-identify. Of course they should. That goes without saying, too.

The question is how to accommodate the transgender population’s needs without infringing on the rights afforded to the rest of us. The question is how to educate and inform the general public about the transgender population’s needs without lecturing or bullying them. The question is how to let people who disagree with transgender bathroom laws express their opinions without disparaging them and calling them names.

Here’s a hint. Swapping lawsuits with North Carolina is not the answer. After all, litigation is an adversarial process.

Don’t Get Me Wrong…

Clearly there’s no place for hatred in a civilized society. Clearly we need laws to discourage people from acting on hatred and punishing them when they do. Clearly we need to enforce them. Clearly we also need laws in place to protect and ensure the fair treatment of minorities.

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

But as I have said before, lawmakers and politicians can’t force anyone to understand something they have difficulty grasping. You can’t force anyone to change their beliefs. You can’t force anyone to have an open mind if they’re not so inclined. And you can’t make anyone stop being afraid of something they truly fear.

The more you try, the more the person or people you are trying to influence will cling to their beliefs. The more you try, the more the person or person are trying to influence will resent it. The more you judge and resort to self-righteousness, the more they will resort to anger and hate.

If you don’t believe me, just take a good, hard look at the people who support the so-called bathroom laws.

There’s Got To Be A Better Way

As far as I am concerned, there’s got to be a better way. It would be fantastic if we could all sit down and have a calm, rational, adult conversation. It would be awesome if we could all express our views in a healthy manner — without resorting to name-calling and vitriol. It would be wonderful if we could all learn to respect each other’s differences, even if we don’t understand them.

But judging by what’s going on in America today, I guess that’s just wishful thinking…

 

North Carolina defies feds over bathroom law

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It’s official. A whole bunch of shit hit the fan in North Carolina today. Clearly some people there are really pissed about the federal government’s order to repeal the controversial bathroom law originally known as House Bill 2 or HB2.

One thing is for sure. Gov. Pat McCrory doesn’t give a crap.

In case you haven’t heard the news, McCrory didn’t just defy the Justice Department’s order to invalidate the law by today. He turned the tables on the feds and sued the Department of Justice (DOJ).

North Carolina to DOJ: This Stinks

Last week, the DOJ informed North Carolina officials that the new law is discriminatory. Furthermore, the DOJ said, it violates three federal laws and vowed to withhold applicable funding unless the state acknowledged it would not “comply with or implement HB2.”

The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act was written and quickly enacted in order to supersede a local ordinance. It prohibits transgender people from using public restrooms and similar facilities for the gender with which they identify. In other words, a man who self-identifies as female cannot use the women’s restroom. Or, to put it even more plainly, everyone must use a public restroom that matches the  gender listed on his or her birth certificate.

McCrory now wants a federal court to interpret federal law — not the Obama administration.

“The Obama administration is bypassing Congress by attempting to rewrite the law and set restroom policies for public and private employers across the country, not just North Carolina,” McCrory said in a statement issued earlier today. “This is now a national issue that applies to every state and it needs to be resolved at the federal level. They are now telling every government agency and every company that employs more than 15 people that men should be allowed to use a women’s locker room, restroom or shower facility.”

The Hypocrisy Is Astounding

So McCrory doesn’t want the federal government telling him what to do. That’s rich.

Did he ever stop to think about the Charlotte lawmakers who originally passed a local law that would have allowed transgender people to use the restroom for the gender with which they identify? Perhaps they didn’t want the state to interfere with their decision.

Aside from all that, this idea that permitting men who self-identify as female into women’s bathrooms, locker rooms and so forth, is an open invitation for sexual predators is ridiculous. As far as I know, there is no such thing as the bathroom police. So anyone who wants to attack a woman or child in a bathroom can do that now.

At The End Of The Day…

Book Cover

By this time, those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know that my ex-husband is transgender. You also know that I wrote a memoir detailing how I found out that the person who was once my best friend, boyfriend, fiancé, and husband was living with such a devastating secret. I also shared what happened after I learned the truth.

 

So clearly I am sharing a unique perspective when I blog about laws affecting the LGBT community. I know from personal experience that it isn’t necessarily easy to accept or understand that someone can honestly self-identify as the opposite gender. Trust me.

But at the end of the day, the least anyone can do is try.

 

No, you can’t say anything you want

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Apparently Curt Schilling isn’t alone. A lot of people seem to agree with him. Or at the very least, they don’t believe the ex-pro baseball player and TV analyst should have been fired for what he did.

In case you don’t know what that was, he shared a post mocking the transgender community on Facebook and added some disparaging comments of his own.

So now some people say Schilling is the victim. They say he was fired because he wasn’t being politically correct. They claim the First Amendment gives him the right to have his say.

I concur — but only to a point. He may have been well within his rights to do what he did, but that doesn’t make it OK. Not by a long shot.

For The Record

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

As I indicated in my last post — I firmly believe that in a free society, everyone has or should have a right to express their opinion. I also think that the politically correct crowd — also known as the “thought police” or “polite police” — is running amok in the United States.

But the bottom line is, the First Amendment may bar the government from making rules that curtail freedom of speech — but it doesn’t mean that you can or should say whatever you want. For example, as we all learned in elementary school, “you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater.”

In some cases, the government can also restrict activity classified as:

  • speech that incites illegal activity and subversive speech
  • fighting words
  • obscenity and pornography
  • commercial speech
  • symbolic expression

On the other hand, “the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that speech that merely offends, or hurts the feelings of, another person—without eliciting a more dramatic response—is protected by the First Amendment. The Court has also underscored the responsibility of receivers to ignore offensive speech.”

So it seems America’s highest court believes in that old saying about “sticks and stones.” But that’s where the politically correct crowd comes in. If you say or do something upsetting, you won’t be punished in a court of law, but you will definitely be censured in the court of public opinion.

And as we’ve seen that can have devastating consequences.

Back To The Matter At Hand

As for Schilling, he says he doesn’t hate transgender people or homosexuals. He’s says he’s not scared of them, either. He says he was merely making a legitimate point about the design and use of public restrooms.

At the end of the day, only he knows what his true intentions were. But as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t really matter.

It’s not a question of being politically correct.  It’s simply a question of being a decent human being.

Apparently common decency is something Curt Schilling is sorely lacking.

Bathroom bill boycotts: getting to the bottom of it

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These days it seems you can’t turn around without hearing about another bathroom bill boycott.

It’s almost as if every rock star on the face of the planet has refused to perform in North Carolina. Several governors have banned all but essential state-funded travel there. Even the corporate world has contributed to the backlash.

Yes, the reaction to North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law — known during the legislative process as House Bill 2 or HB2 — has been swift and harsh. And if a recent Huffington Post article is accurate, the “punishment” meted out by these groups has already proved costly.

Acceptable Protest Or Something Else?

Yet there is a question that remains unasked — at least in the mainstream media, where the politically correct narrative always rules the day. Is all of this economic pressure an acceptable form of protest — or is it something else? Specifically, is it an acceptable form of extortion?

In order to answer the question, we must first find the legal definition of extortion. It is: The obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.

So by the strict reading of this definition alone, the answer is “no.” The bathroom bill boycotts cannot be classified as extortion. No property has changed hands — and as far as I can tell, there has been no “wrongful use of actual threatened force, violence or fear…”

However, an explanation of the term on thefreedictionary.com also includes the following: Other types of threats sufficient to constitute extortion include those to harm the victim’s business… Many statutes also provide that any threat to harm another person in his or her career or reputation is extortion.

Depending on how you look at it, that either muddies the waters or clarifies things a lot. We know the bathroom bill boycotts are designed to deprive North Carolina and its individual municipalities of income. One could also argue that they are designed to damage or inflict further damage on the state’s reputation. Although they are not directly targeted, North Carolina businesses are also being harmed as a result of the activity.

So based on that, the bathroom bill boycotts are an accepted form of extortion. But of course the politically correct crowd will never admit it.

It Is What It Is

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

Don’t get me wrong. Clearly discrimination against any individual or any group is unacceptable. Clearly hate and ignorance are unacceptable. Clearly people should stand up for groups that are unfairly treated.

So if you want to engage in civil disobedience, fine. If you want to organize a rally, great. If you want to start a petition, fine. If you want to write to the governor, that’s fine, too. If you usually vacation in North Carolina and you are so upset by the anti-LGBT law that you literally don’t want to go there, awesome. Cancel your reservations and go somewhere else.

If you happen to be an entertainer or a corporate mogul or a politician and you want to engage in glorified extortion, that’s your decision. Just don’t call it a bathroom bill boycott.

Mississippi House Bill 1523: you be the judge

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

I would have posted this sooner, but I’ve been sort of busy. In fact, I just finished reading Mississippi House Bill 1523 — all 16 pages of it.

For those of you who haven’t heard about it, the bill is also known as the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act.” Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant just gave it his stamp of approval, meaning the new law will take effect this summer.

As written, the law both prohibits discrimination against people with deeply held religious beliefs and moral convictions and allows them to discriminate against other groups based on those same beliefs and convictions.

As you can imagine, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD have had plenty to say about the issue. You can read their take on it here.

In black and white

Of course, their comments are based solely on their interpretation of the law. For those of you who want to form your own conclusions, I’ve included some relevant text from a copy of the bill reviewed by state legislators below.

In pertinent part, it says:

  • “Laws and government actions that protect the free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions about marriage and human sexuality will encourage private citizens and institutions to demonstrate tolerance for those beliefs and convictions and therefore contribute to a more respectful, diverse and peaceful society…”
  • “…it is possible for the government to recognize same-sex marriage without forcing persons with sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions to conform.”
  • “The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that: (a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and (c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at birth.”

But wait, there’s more…

The law bars the state government from taking action against anyone who, on the basis of their moral convictions or religious beliefs:

  • Refuses to perform surgery or provide any other treatment commonly administered to aid in a transgender individual’s transition.
  • Creates policy addressing a number of issues including but not limited to access to bathrooms, locker rooms and similar facilities.
  • Refuses to provide services associated with the celebration of certain marriages.

It also prohibits the state from punishing religious organizations or members of such organizations who, on the basis of strictly held religious or moral beliefs refuse to:

  • Preside at or authorize certain marriages.
  • Allow marriages to be held on their property.
  • Provide services for certain marriages.

Finally, the law allows state employees who are authorized to issue marriage licenses to request permission to recuse themselves in instances contradictory to their religious beliefs or moral convictions. The same stipulation applies to state employees who are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies.

Think about it

Clearly this is a highly controversial and emotionally charged issue. Those of you who know me personally or who have been following this blog for any length of time know that I have strong feelings about it. After all, laws like this directly affect someone who I once loved and will always care for.

But the bottom line is that when it comes to issues like this, there are always two sides to every story. And there are never any easy answers. So I will leave it at that. For now.

 

 

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.

 

Uproar over HB2 hits close to home

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I haven’t spoken to my ex-husband in years. But at times like this — when controversy erupts over LGBT rights — I can’t help but think of him. Or should I say, her?

Long Before There Was Chaz or Caitlyn…

For those of you who don’t know, my ex-husband, Adam, is transgender. So he’s Audrey now. Or more accurately, she’s Audrey now.

I learned the truth about the person I once considered my best friend and soul mate shortly after our second wedding anniversary. By that time we had been together for the better part of 10 years. And no. Until that point I never had a clue.

Book Cover

Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that the person I planned to have children and grow old with would have such a devastating, heartbreaking secret. As Adam and I exchanged vows during our nationally televised, fairy-tale wedding at the Hampton Classic Horse Show, I had no reason whatsoever to think we would be divorced less than three years later.

That’s exactly what happened, though.

After we agreed to go our separate ways, Adam moved to another part of the country where he continued his transition. Eventually he went overseas to have surgery to complete the process. When he returned, he was no longer the man I married.

Eventually I rebuilt my own life. I moved to Virginia, where I spent more than eight years working at what had once been one of the best suburban newspapers in the state. It was during that time that I also decided to share my story in my memoir, Truth Be Told: Adam Becomes Audrey.

I want to be crystal clear about that. I wrote my book in order to tell my story. Not Audrey’s story. Mine.

That being stated, I also had a lot of unanswered questions. I told Audrey as much while I was writing the book. I asked if I could interview her — if she wanted to share her perspective. She refused.

So Much for That

That was years ago and I haven’t spoken to her since. Quite frankly, there’s nothing left to say.

So I have no idea what she thinks about North Carolina House Bill 2 and the backlash that it has triggered.

To be honest, I am not all that sure what I think about the issue, either.

On the surface it seems simple. No one should be fired due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Transgender people should be allowed to use restrooms matching their gender identity, individual communities should be allowed to pass laws that allow them to do so, and the state should not be able to enact legislation that bars municipalities from doing so.

But of course, it’s not that simple. It never is.


For more information about HB2, see:

ACLU Sues Over Controversial Transgender Bathroom Law

N.C. governor signs bill repealing Charlotte transgender bathroom law

Tech Giants Join Rebuke of Law Blocking LGBT Rights