Opinion Columns & Blogs

Time to flush all the ‘bathroom bills’

If you read my column regularly, you’ve probably noticed that there are certain themes that come up again and again. One theme that seems to be coming up on a regular basis lately is this one — we don’t need a freaking law for everything.

I have never felt more strongly about that principle than I do when I have to read about these ridiculous “bathroom bills” that have turned into some kind of moral crusade for people on either side of the LGBT rights debate. Let’s recap how the legislative stupidity has unfolded so far:

• The city of Charlotte, North Carolina, passed an ordinance that said transgender people have the right to use the public restroom that matches their chosen gender identity.

• The North Carolina state legislature responded to that ordinance by passing a law that voided it. The new law specifies that people throughout the state must use public restrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificates.

• The federal government subsequently sued the state of North Carolina, accusing it of sex discrimination. The state responded by filing a countersuit against the feds, and lawyers everywhere rejoiced at their good fortune.

• Finally, the federal government issued a directive to public schools nationwide that said they are required to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice or risk losing federal funding.

So here we are, smack in the middle of a raging culture war and it’s all a completely unnecessary, expensive waste of everyone’s time in my opinion. These are all textbook examples of superfluous, unenforceable legislation designed to “make a statement” about some group’s personal belief about a hot-button moral issue that shouldn’t be the subject of civil law.

Frankly, bathroom usage shouldn’t be that complicated. If you are a man or a transgender person who is living as a man, you use the men’s room. If you are a woman or a transgender person who is living as a woman, you use the ladies’ room. That is, whether you like it or not, the way things have been working up until now, and it doesn’t seem to have caused too many practical, real-world problems.

However if you assault or otherwise harass someone, regardless of which restroom you are in at the time, that is and always has been illegal. That is as it should be, and it is really the only law that we need when it comes to the regulating the use of public restrooms.

But governments are filled with people who have no problem misusing their power to engage in moral crusades, so we get this legislative tit-for-tat that just seems to snowball. The last item on the list above is, to me, the most outrageous. The federal government is trying to mandate to our local public schools that children have the right to declare themselves to be whatever gender they prefer to select for themselves on a given day and use the facilities that match their current gender of choice.

Imagine you’re the principal of a high school and this little gem of an edict comes across your desk. As if you didn’t have enough to deal with, now you have the federal government ordering you to allow teenagers to decide which bathroom or locker room they’d like to use. How could that possibly go wrong?

How to handle the needs and security of transgender children is the sort of sensitive, complex situation that needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis, not something you can solve with a sweeping mandate from Big Brother.

One good thing to come out of this “transgender mandate” to public schools is that several states are already declaring that they will refuse federal funds before they allow Uncle Sam to dictate bathroom policy to local schools. That’s an encouraging development.

The federal government should have never stuck it’s nose into public school education in the first place. Maybe the Great Bathroom War will turn into an opportunity for states to turn away those federal dollars permanently and return full responsibility for funding and running public schools back to state and local governments, where it belongs.