When Charlotte, N.C., became the latest in a string of large American cities to pass a sweeping law expanding rights for homosexuals and transgendered people, it marked another strategic victory for gay activists.
The law, mirroring many others in cities, counties and states across the nation, includes a controversial provision for public restroom and locker room access based on gender identity—a flashpoint of debate nearly everywhere the laws have been considered.
In Charlotte, the law was debated in a packed public forum prior to the city council approving it, as expected, 7-4 on Feb. 22. Charlotte joins more than 200 other cities, 22 states, the District of Columbia and numerous counties with similar ordinances. The North Carolina state assembly is expected to challenge the Charlotte law, possibly in a special session, and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has said he would support the action.
A week after Charlotte passed its law, South Dakota’s Republican governor, Dennis Daugaard, vetoed a trailblazing bill that would have restricted restrooms and locker rooms in public schools to one’s anatomical gender. As a compromise attempt, the law would have required schools to seek neutral accommodations for transgendered students.
Daugaard’s veto was another victory for LGBT proponents.
The Charlotte ordinance, like most others, passed despite citizen protests. A group called “Don’t Do It Charlotte!” had organized for months and had voiced its concerns for public safety.
But with a new mayor elected last year amid typical low voter turnout, and with conservatives outnumbered on the city council, the nondiscrimination ordinance sailed through after a narrow defeat last spring.
“Nobody supports actual discrimination,” Kenny Smith, a second-term Charlotte councilman who opposed the law, told Decision. “But this was never really about discrimination. It has been much less about solving any actual problem and much more an emotional heartstring issue. It’s about forced acceptance.”
Proponents of these laws say the safety of transgendered people is at risk, but Smith said proponents were never able to show evidence that transgendered people were safer because of the bathroom provisions.
Meanwhile, concerns expressed about the safety of women and girls in public spaces were dismissed as fear mongering and bigotry toward transgendered people, Smith said.
Addressing the Charlotte council during a public hearing, Eliana Smith, who is not related to the councilman, said transgendered men weren’t her primary concern, but rather “countless deviant men in this world who will pretend to be transgender in order to gain access to the people they want to exploit.”
Despite claims made at the Charlotte meeting that fears of sexual exploitation were unfounded, several cases have been reported in which males visiting women’s changing facilities have caused problems.
In Seattle, the local CBS television affiliate reported on a man who visited the women’s locker room at a local public lap pool Feb. 8. When confronted, the man reportedly told parks and recreation staff that “the law has changed and I have a right to be here.”
Washington’s Human Rights Commission has interpreted state law to offer restroom and locker room access based on gender identity.
In another Washington case, a YMCA patron named Kati told Christian radio commentator and author Michael Brown that her young daughter and several other girls were confounded by a teenage boy sitting in the women’s locker room scrolling through his phone.
“Little girls were surprised when they came in from showering with their towels wrapped around them to see him sitting there,” the woman told Brown in a comment on his Facebook page. “My daughter was one of those girls. This policy opens the door to those who have malicious intent.”
The Obama administration has been sympathetic to the aims of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)—arguably the world’s most powerful gay rights lobby—and has begun arguing that discrimination on the basis of gender identity violates federal laws against sex discrimination.
The federal government is grossly misapplying these so-called Title IX laws to advance the Human Rights Campaign’s agenda, explains Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel with the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
Tedesco says that counter to what South Dakota lawmakers were attempting, the federal Department of Education is threatening school districts nationwide with pulling federal funds if they don’t provide protections, including restroom and locker room access, based on gender identity.
“The Obama administration is twisting the intent of the law—which is strictly to prevent discrimination on the basis of biological sex—and misusing it to include gender identity. These are two separate, distinct issues. They are absolutely wrong, and they are doing it in the name of a very narrow political agenda.”
Tedesco says ADF is getting calls weekly from school leaders and parents upset by the pressure from the federal government or gay activists attempting to coerce compliance with their agenda.
Especially in Southern cities such as Charlotte, the pressure is on because “they really want to make a dent there to prove their effectiveness and make people come on board with this agenda,” Tedesco noted.
Like many issues labeled “civil rights,” gay activists have framed the debate around compassion, says Bob Stith, founder of Family and Gender Issues Ministries in Southlake, Texas, and a retired pastor.
Stith says that because transgendered people are “genuinely conflicted about their gender identity,” society has been told that in order to be compassionate, it must give full legal support for gay, lesbian and transgender initiatives.
“Politicians don’t want to come across as uncaring or, God forbid, uninformed,” Stith said. “So they jump on board without regard to the facts.”
Tedesco said of LGBT activists: “They are very shrill in their tactics. On the one hand, if you advance religious freedom laws, you are warned that you will be a political outcast. On the other hand, laws that bar discrimination, we are told, bring in big business, and they are good for your state.”
The Human Rights Campaign’s annual Municipal Equality Index—billed as “a roadmap of laws and policies that cities can use to make their community more inclusive”—boldly makes such claims.
“Cities across the country have realized the value of full inclusion,” boasts author Richard Florida in the Human Rights Campaign’s 2015 report on cities.
Then on the next page, the report sounds a warning to conservative cities: “Businesses will increasingly have to evaluate the legal landscape offered by a potential new location in its calculation of where to expand operations.”
Meanwhile, the opinions of experts, such as Dr. Paul McHugh, former chief of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a pioneer in cosmetic transgender surgery who has now disavowed the practice as harmful, are mostly ignored.
Writing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2014, McHugh said “policymakers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention.”
That was not what was being sold to the Charlotte City Council in spring 2015 during a dinner meeting. Representatives from the Human Rights Campaign pressed hard on city leaders for a vote on a nondiscrimination ordinance with full accommodations for transgendered citizens.
Smith, along with a minority of other council members who opposed the move, were caught flat-footed, seeking to ask clarifying questions with little advance notice, he said.
“They were wanting us to vote on it that night,” recalled Smith, who was flabbergasted at the idea. Weeks later, the first attempt at passing the law was defeated because it didn’t go far enough to suit LGBT proponents on the council.
Smith said it was obvious the Human Rights Campaign had convinced the city manager and others that if Charlotte was going to be considered an attractive, business-friendly city, it needed such an ordinance. Monikers such as “world-class city” were offered up in arguments for the ordinance during the Feb. 22 meeting.
“HRC is going around cherry-picking municipalities because they know they will have difficulty at the state level most of the time,” Smith said. “Voter participation tends to be less in local elections and slightly more liberal. This is 100 percent a strategy to work from the bottom up.”
One victory for conservatives came in Houston, where voters dealt LGBT activists a setback in November after HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) was put to a citywide vote.
Pastor Edwin Young of Second Baptist Church told Baptist Press the night of the vote: “I think there are enough people in the city who still have and will vote godly principles. A lot of people did some soul-searching and said this is enough.”
But Houston seems to be the outlier, even in its own state.
Dallas, Austin and Fort Worth, for example, rank near the top of the national list of LGBT-friendly cities in terms of laws with “explicit and comprehensive equal-rights policies,” according to the Human Rights Campaign’s municipal ratings.
The group has no plans to let up.
“I hope what happened in Houston is a wake-up call to other cities around the nation,” Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign wrote. “The tragic repeal of HERO should inspire us to double-down and work harder than ever before.”
Joe Dallas, a Christian author and counselor who left the homosexual movement three decades ago, said the laws being pushed by LGBT activists are “counterintuitive to the natural modesty we experience and encourage among children and teens” and undermine laws that formerly protected the public.
“We have deconstructed the sanctity of the sexual relationship by celebrating it outside of marriage,” Dallas said. “Then we have deconstructed the definition of marriage itself to include same-sex unions. Now, we are deconstructing the very concept of gender differences.
“These legal and cultural trends are very unfortunate, but Christians had best be prepared for more of these trends and for more pushback against us when we object to them. That requires us to be well grounded in our positions from a Biblical perspective, and to be good stewards of truth by intelligently and clearly expressing those perspectives.” ©2016 BGEA