North Carolina’s state legislature wasn’t supposed to be in session this week, but the Republican-led chambers rushed back to work for a special, taxpayer-financed session, focused solely on one key issue.
The issue, oddly enough, related to the use of public bathrooms.
North Carolina legislators decided to rein in local governments by approving a bill Wednesday that prevents cities and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination rules. Gov. Pat McCrory later signed the legislation, which dealt a blow to the LGBT movement after success with protections in cities across the country.The Republican-controlled General Assembly took action after Charlotte city leaders last month approved a broad anti-discrimination measure. Critics focused on language in the ordinance that allowed transgender people to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity.
If steps like these seem to be happening with increasing frequency, it’s not your imagination. A variety of cities have approved higher minimum wages, only to have states pass laws to block municipalities from acting on their own. Some cities have tried to pass paid sick-leave for workers in their area, only to have states change the law to prohibit such steps.
And a month ago, the city of Charlotte banned discrimination against LGBT citizens, only to learn a month later that the state had not only scrapped the local measure, but also changed state law to prevent any city from expanding protections against discrimination.
As we discussed earlier this week, contemporary conservatism is generally committed to the idea that the government that’s closest to the people – literally, geographically – is best able to respond to the public’s needs. As much as possible, officials should try to shift power and resources away to local authorities.
Except, that is, when communities consider progressive measures Republicans don’t like, at which point those principles are quickly thrown out the window.
So, let this be a lesson to everyone: when officials in Washington tell states what to do, it’s an outrageous abuse and clear evidence of government overreach. When states tell cities what to do, it’s protecting conservative principles.
And in this case, the new North Carolina policy is a mess. The Associated Press’ report added:
Gay rights leaders and transgender people said the legislation demonizes the community and espouses bogus claims about increasing the risk of sexual assaults. They say the law will deny lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people essential protections needed to ensure they can get a hotel room, hail a taxi or dine at a restaurant without fear.“McCrory’s reckless decision to sign this appalling legislation into law is a direct attack on the rights, well-being and dignity of hundreds of thousands of LGBT North Carolinians and visitors to the state,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement.
Vox’s report called the new North Carolina measure, signed into law last night, a legislative package that combines “some of the most anti-LGBTQ measures proposed in the US, codifying the legality of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity into law.”