The anti-LGBT Trojan horses

There has been a spate of anti-LGBT legislation in states around the nation. The stated purpose of these legislative efforts is often narrowly framed, such as to deal with what bathrooms people can use. In some cases they are more broadly framed as being to enable religious people to act according to their beliefs without fear of prosecution. North Carolina and Mississippi have been in the spotlight but the Human Rights Campaign lists 28 such bills around the country.

But in reality, the practical outcome of these bills is to enable people to broadly discriminate against others. The investigative journalism outfit ProPublica shows how the North Carolina legislation, ostensibly dealing only with bathroom access targeting the transgender community, has much wider implications.

As has been widely reported, the North Carolina legislature rushed last month to pass HB2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which requires transgender people (and everyone else) to use public restrooms according to the biological sex on their birth certificate. It also bars local governments from passing ordinances like Charlotte’s.

The legislation doesn’t stop there, however. Tucked inside is language that strips North Carolina workers of the ability to sue under a state anti-discrimination law, a right that has been upheld in court since 1985. “If you were fired because of your race, fired because of your gender, fired because of your religion,” said Allan Freyer, head of the Workers’ Rights Project at the N.C. Justice Center in Raleigh, “… you no longer have a basic remedy.”

“The LGBT issues were a Trojan horse,” added Erika Wilson, a law professor at the University of North Carolina who co-directs a legal clinic for low-income plaintiffs with job and housing discrimination claims. The broader change hasn’t received much attention, she said, because “people were so caught up in [the LGBT] part of the law that this snuck under the radar.”

Others pointed to a burgeoning trend in which conservatives are exploiting a backlash against gay marriage and transgender rights to push legislation with broad ramifications. In Georgia, the governor vetoed a bill allowing faith-based organizations the ability to refuse to rent property, provide education or charitable services, or do any hiring that violates their religious beliefs. In Mississippi, a bill that passed the legislature last week would permit discrimination against anyone who has nonmarital sex. [Update, April 5, 2016: Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill into law.]

HB2 “is more evidence that the forces behind this backlash have a larger agenda than simply attacking marriage rights for same-sex couples,” said Katherine Franke, director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. “They also seek to unravel protections against race discrimination in public accommodations and other contexts.”

It is always thus. As we take two steps forward in increasing the rights of formerly marginalized groups, we take one step back as those opposed to those measures find ways to strike back. The emancipation of slaves saw the arrival of Jim Crow laws that required the Civil Rights acts to rectify.

The recognition of the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry and the increasing awareness of the needs and rights of the transgender community is sparking a similar backlash and will require a fresh round of activism to combat.


  1. Matt G says

    You can’t talk about the modern Republican movement without talking about racism.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    The Republican Party has nothing to offer but fear and hatred. With the prospect of either Trump or Cruz at the top of the ticket, they are freaking out that Republican voter turnout will be low in November, and not only will they lose the White House, but they will also suffer badly in House and Senate races. So they need a new fear to sell.

  3. tecolata says

    So if an unmarried pregnant woman with complications goes to the hospital they can refuse her treatment due to their sincerely held religious beliefs that women who have sex outside marriage should be stoned to death.
    And outlaw birth control and abortion because they are pro-life.

  4. says

    The good news is that once all these bullshit laws get struck down, there will be a substantial body of case law making it increasingly unlikely and expensive for someone to try it.

    This is an extinction burst and the haters are actually shoring up their losing argument, to make sure it loses more consistently. Carry on, haters! It’s going to take a decade or so to deal with all this but by the time it’s done, they’ll be thoroughly stuffed.

  5. flex says

    Marcus Ranum wrote,

    This is an extinction burst….

    I hope so. But there are numerous historical precedents of religious fundamentalists not only establishing a foothold in the laws of their nations, but eventually causing economic collapse because of it. One example I’ve been studying recently has been the history of the Spanish city of Grenada, where the religious fanaticism of the Christians persecuted and expelled the Moriscos (post-reconquesta) who where the major agriculturalists and merchants in the region. Needless to say, the region suffered a severe economic collapse, which only increased the fanaticism of the Christians.

    There are also numerous examples of similar (and probably more familiar) fanatical purity creating a spiral of reduced wealth leading to greater fanaticism when studying pogroms in European history, or the wars between the Catholics and the Protestants. But I’ve encountered similar, although less well documented, examples in North African history in battles between different sects of Muslims.

    The societies which avoid this kind of strife appear to be those which are universally educated and comfortably well-off. Aspect of our nations which have been regressing in since the mid-1970’s. Not that we are anywhere near a tipping point (as far as I can tell), but when people ask themselves the question “Are you better off today than you were 10 years ago?” and the answer is “No”, they start looking for reasons. When a demagogue, like Cruz or Trump, provide easy answers, and promise improvements they can’t deliver, there is clearly a level on malcontent.

    When I talk to people about inequality, they always want to focus on how Progressives are “attacking” the rich. I have a hard time convincing them that I don’t really give a damn about the rich, but I do care that the poor are getting poorer and are getting fed up. If we have to tax the rich more in order to improve education and enable everyone to be moderately well-off (i.e. have food, shelter, transportation, phone and internet access(entertainment)), We need to. I don’t really care if the rich are bathing in the milk of 1000 virgin donkeys, so long as the poor are able to meet their needs and have opportunities to grow and develop.

  6. Nick Gotts says

    I don’t really care if the rich are bathing in the milk of 1000 virgin donkeys, so long as the poor are able to meet their needs and have opportunities to grow and develop. -- flex@6

    There I am sure you are wrong. Past a certain point, wealth is principally about power, not luxury. The seriously rich, in one way or another, can buy political influence -- and they do, using it principaaly to further increase economic inequality and so further reinforce their power. This is abundantly obvious in the USA, where it is almost impossible to become President unless you are either a billionaire yourself, or have the support of billionaires.

  7. Mano Singham says

    Past a certain point, wealth is also about keeping score as to who is winning or better.

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