North Carolina’s HB 2 law—also known as the “bathroom bill”—has stirred the pot of national controversy for the past few weeks. This particular piece of legislation has catapulted itself into a topic of debate among the presidential candidates as well.
For those unfamiliar with the bill, the impetus is simple: HB 2 codifies that people can only use a gender-specific public restroom that correlates with the gender stated on their birth certificate. And if you can’t read between the lines, this bill was designed to specifically target the transgendered community.
My goal in writing this article is not to preach to the choir. Those who oppose the bill for its discriminatory nature need no further convincing.
My target audience are those who self-identify as “conservative”—more specifically, “limited-government conservative.” This can apply to a variety of other labels: libertarian, constitutionalist, Tea Party Republican, etc. Whatever the label, I would like to make the “limited government” case against the infamous bathroom bill.
Only Law Abiding Citizens Will be Victims
It’s quite simple to borrow from conservative talking points used during gun control debates to philosophically dismantle HB 2.
For starters, the primary criticism of gun control involves protecting the rights of those who have not committed a crime. Law abiding gun owners—who purchase their weapons through legal avenues, keep them out of the reach of children, and use their firearms responsibly—are the first to be victimized by any increase of restrictions placed on guns, critics claim. Guns don’t commit crimes; only criminals do.
The perceived threats of rape and child molestation have saturated the talking points of those in favor of HB 2. However, in doing so, proponents have created the image of a cross-dressing boogeyman as a convenient strawman to lambast. Meanwhile, the vast majority of transgendered people have committed no such crimes and are not worthy of the criminal stigma. In fact, transgendered people are statistically the victims of sexual assault more frequently than the general public.
Law abiding transgendered people are the ideological cohort of law-abiding gun owners. Their rights are not subject to popular opinion or vote.
Murderers Don't Respect Laws, Yet Rapists and Pedophiles Will?
Imagine a gun-toting psychopath is on route to commit a horrific act of mass murder at the nearest elementary school. Armed to the teeth, he stomps up to the school’s property line. Before making his next move, he notices a sign before him: “Gun Free Zone.” The killer glances at his AR-15, mentally counts the amount of ammo in his backpack and scratches the inside of his ankle where his Glock holster is chafing him. Considering his significant fire power on person and the impending illegality of his next step into a restricted area where his arsenal isn’t welcomed, he turns around and goes home all because of this well-placed sign.
Are your eyes rolling yet? They should be. And this is the very same ridiculous hypothetical scenario used to argue against the effectiveness of legal burdens placed upon gun buyers.
Yet, the legal barriers created by HB 2 will somehow deter the sexual assault that proponents of the law are peculiarly preoccupied with. Their concern is that bearded perverts sporting sundresses will sneak into the ladies’ restroom and have their way with the women and young girls using the very same facilities.
Eye rolls are appropriate here as well. By their very own logic, a new law will not stop these wolves in women’s clothing. Short of posting armed guards at every public bathroom, sexual predators can't be legislated away.
Sexual deviants are not only blind to the legality of their actions; gender identity doesn’t seem to matter either. The rhetoric often focuses on the safety of young girls, but it neglects the countless sex crimes where young boys were the victims in bathrooms. There are countless stories—such as this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, and this one—of male sexual predators committing crimes in the gender-specific bathroom that corresponded with the gender stated on their birth certificate.
Limited government proponents postulate that certain crimes are already universally accepted as illegal—such as murder and rape—and any additional legalistic layer will not serve as an effective deterrent. The conservative aversion to new legislation should have stopped HB 2 from ever reaching Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk for his final signature.
Classic Example of Government Overreach
There is one point for conservatives that I will concede: HB 2 is a states' rights issue. North Carolina has the right to create and enact its own laws as long as it doesn’t violate federal laws or Constitutional precedence. Even if it is determined that HB 2 is to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, traditional conservatives will simply be outraged by the overreach of “judicial activism.”
However, from the perspective of city and county governments, this is a drastic overreach of state authority.
The impetus behind this bill involved an ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council. The Council approved ordinance language that allowed transgendered people to use the bathroom that they identify with, ultimately creating a protected class of citizens against discrimination.
For fans of minimized government and local control, it's fairly obvious that HB 2 violates the basic principles of home rule municipalities.
Bad Laws Only Hurt the Free Market
The economic reaction to the controversial law was instantaneous and irate. Some of the biggest names in entertainment and enterprise have pulled business from North Carolina out of protest to the bill.
PayPal originally planned to build a new global operations center in Charlotte. The site promised approximately 400 new jobs and an estimated $3.6 million revenue for the city.
But the company released a statement expressing their opposition to the law and the cancellation of their plans to expand into North Carolina. “Becoming an employer in North Carolina, where members of our teams will not have equal rights under the law, is simply untenable,” states Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal.
In addition to PayPal, North Carolina has lost the prospects of business expansion from other companies, including Deutsche Bank and B-Lab. Though hard to gauge at the moment, the prospects of lost revenue as a result of one law—including one report that speculates a loss of $500 million in economic activity in North Carolina—are staggering for the state.
The free market is speaking: HB 2 is costly for North Carolina.
States' rights notwithstanding, pro-HB 2 conservatives living outside of North Carolina should reconsider their position. If a similar piece of legislation materializes in their own home state, these individuals may find themselves on the wrong side of many of the principles—due process, protection of individual rights, an unfettered economy, and limited government—that they traditionally hold very dear.
Photo Credit: WPDE