To the Republicans in the N.C. House:
We underestimated you.
For years, we’ve said that you don’t care much about protecting the people in your state, at least not unless our name ends in “Inc.” But this week, when a public safety crisis arose, you flew into action so fast we found ourselves looking for your capes.
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It happened soon after the Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance Monday night that expanded non-discrimination protections to members of the LGBT community. That new ordinance included a provision that would allow transgender people to choose the restrooms they use based on the gender with which they identify.
But there you were, ready to make a stand at the bathroom door. House Speaker Tim Moore quickly promised “legislative intervention,” and by Thursday, he and other lawmakers were well into discussions about holding a special session pronto to stop cities from messing with our potties.
That special session wouldn’t come cheap of course. Estimates have it at about $42,000 a day, but as Moore says: “We cannot put a price tag on the safety of women and children.”
You can, however, put a stopwatch on it. The N.C. House could wait to tackle the issue on April 25, when the next short session begins, but that would be more than three weeks after Charlotte’s new ordinance takes effect April 1. Who knows how many predators might prowl the women’s rooms of Charlotte in those 25-plus days? Who knows how much molestation might occur?
Actually, we have a pretty good hint. In the 200 or so U.S. cities that have passed ordinances like Charlotte, there have been zero such incidents reported.
The reason for that is transgender people aren’t interested in your wives and daughters. Also, a predator cannot simply claim he identifies as a woman and expose himself in a bathroom scot-free, as some claim. In fact, if a straight guy walks into a women’s room and management wants him out, it’s trespassing, same as it always was. There’s nothing in the new ordinance that allows it, city attorney Bob Hagemann says.
That’s what happened, by the way, in a Seattle incident that ordinance opponents have pointed to a lot in the past week. There, a man walked into a women’s locker room, took off his shirt, and said it was legal. But it turns out he wasn’t a trangender person. He was apparently protesting Washington state’s non-discrimination law. And by being there in that locker room against management’s wishes, he was breaking the law.
So unless you count a guy that wanted to protect women by spooking them, that brings us back to zero reported bathroom issues. And zero is less than some of the other things you can protect us from (since you’re in the mood and all).
Like, for example, fracking. Unlike bathrooms, enough legitimate alarms have been sounded in other states that you might want to consider hitting the pause button here instead of putting our groundwater in jeopardy.
Or, if it’s families you want to save from harm, you could help shield them from financial disaster by easing up on some of the harshest unemployment rules in the country.
Or, if you’re thinking about the children, how about protecting their future by opening the state’s wallet a little more and paying the people who lead their classrooms?
You don’t even need to have a special session for those things. We can wait until April. Because while we know you want to protect us from the threats that don’t exist, we kind of wish you’d think about the ones that do.
Peter: @saintorange; pstonge@charlotteobserver