Tuesday, July 14, 2009

H.1728 is not about the bathrooms, it's about everything else

Today, the state House of Representatives heard testimony on H.1728, titled "An Act relative to gender based discrimination and hate crimes." Opponents have called it "the Bathroom Bill," because among the myriad of changes, the bill would prohibit places of public accommodation from barring transgendered individuals from using the bathroom assigned to the gender they associate themselves with.

That's right, opponents of the bill want to keep transgendered people from taking leak in a public bathroom without the fear of intimidation. Or at least, that is the point on which they have chosen to take their stand. An opinion in today's Telegram and Gazette penned by the executive director of he Coalition for Marriage and Family puts it this way:
Who has more rights in our society? Normal 10-year-old girls who want privacy in their elementary school’s girls’ room? Or a gender-confused boy who insists on using that same restroom?

A hearing is scheduled for today before the Judiciary Committee on H.1728, the Transgender Bill, otherwise known as the Bathroom Bill. This legislation would protect the rights of people with Gender Identity Disorder (cross-dressers, those changing their gender surgically, or simply those who “feel” differently-gendered) to use the bathrooms, locker rooms, and shelters reserved for the opposite sex.
No one should have more rights than another, which is the point of the legislation in the first place. It isn't an either-or situation. Currently the "normal" 10-year-old girl has more rights, because as she grows up the law says that she cannot be discriminated against because of her "religious sect, creed, class, race, color, denomination, sex, sexual orientation, which shall not include persons whose sexual orientation involves minor children as the sex object, nationality, or because of deafness or blindness, or any physical or mental disability." If she is any or all of those things she is protected, unless she is transgendered.

This "normal 10-year-old" can be placed in a charter school, rent an apartment, get a job, use a full-service gas station, order lunch, go to a museum, and relieve herself in the bathroom with no threat of discrimination based on her identity.

The "gender-confused" boy could technically be refused all of those things under the law as long as the school, landlord, employer, gas-station owner, restaurateur, curator, or bathroom monitor decided that the reason he should be barred is because of his transgendered identity.

If one reads the bill, they would realize that the bill is 15 pages long, and is a comprehensive update of a number of statutes to include "gender identity or expression" to the list of reasons a person cannot be discriminated against. It's not about bathrooms: there is one mention of a "rest room" on page 12 of the bill. Here is the full context of that mention:
A place of public accommodation, resort or amusement within the meaning hereof shall be defined as and shall be deemed to include any place, whether licensed or unlicensed, which is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public and, without limiting the generality of this definition, whether or not it be (1) an inn, tavern, hotel, shelter, roadhouse, motel, trailer camp or resort for transient or permanent guests or patrons seeking housing or lodging, food, drink, entertainment, health, recreation or rest; (2) a carrier, conveyance or elevator for the transportation of persons, whether operated on land, water or in the air, and the stations, terminals and facilities appurtenant thereto; (3) a gas station, garage, retail store or establishment, including those dispensing personal services; (4) a restaurant, bar or eating place, where food, beverages, confections or their derivatives are sold for consumption on or off the premises; (5) a rest room, barber shop, beauty parlor, bathhouse, seashore facilities or swimming pool, except such rest room, bathhouse or seashore facility as may be segregated on the basis of sex; (6) a boardwalk or other public highway; (7) an auditorium, theatre, music hall, meeting place or hall, including the common halls of buildings; (8) a place of public amusement, recreation, sport, exercise or entertainment; (9) a public library, museum or planetarium; or (10) a hospital, dispensary or clinic operating for profit;
This text is currently in section 92A of chapter 272 of the general laws of Massachusetts. This is essentially an anti-Jim Crow law: it outlines a host of places and services where discrimination based on class is illegal. In the other 14 pages of the bill, laws are changed to prohibit discrimination against transgendered individuals in schools, lending, housing, and other areas.

As you can see, the law is not about bathrooms. And to be clear, the opposition is not concerned with bathrooms; they don't want to extend protections to transgendered individuals in any arena. Opponents want to get people all riled up about little girls stuck in bathrooms with predators who cross-dress (not because they are transgendered, but because they are pedophiles exploiting the law). They figure that if people are scared enough about that, they'll oppose the bill without focusing on the other 99.9% of it.

Of course what they don't tell you--because they don't want you to know--is that their mythical gender-confused pedophile is already covered by the law. Here is the definition:
persons of any religious sect, creed, class, race, color, denomination, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, which shall not include persons whose sexual orientation involves minor children as the sex object, nationality, or because of deafness or blindness, or any physical or mental disability...
Got that? Anyone who goes into a public bathroom to look at little children may be removed or barred today whether they are attracted to boys or girls, regardless of their gender or orientation. Passing this bill will not change that one bit. It will not make it easier to prey on "normal 10-year-old girls."

What do the opponents really want? They do not want to expand the definition of the protected class. They are the same people who do not believe we should include sexual orientation in the description. Some may not believe we should include gender. Others may not believe we should protect based on race or creed.

While I disagree, this is at least a legitimate point of argument. There is a school of thought that suggests that there should be no protected classes, that folks should be able to choose who they serve and who they do not, and that the government has no stake in those decisions. I strongly disagree with a policy that broad, but at least it is a legitimate point of discussion.

But this stuff about bathrooms is ludicrous. Opponents of the bill should be upfront with their opposition, and get the minds out of the toilet.

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