After North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed into law a controversial bill forcing transgender individuals to use public restrooms corresponding with their birth gender, New York responded by barring its state employees from nonessential travel to the Southern state.
This comedy of errors by legislation underlines the absurd lengths to which politicians feel the State has the right to interfere in people’s private lives — and how intolerant we remain as a society.
Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city passed a nondiscrimination ordinance in February, with the intent to protect transgender people who are obviously most comfortable using the restroom corresponding with their gender identity. But the state had to hold a special session when the ordinance spawned paranoia among those who misunderstand gender identity — as if it were an excuse used only by sexual predators.
After heated debate and testimony from the public, North Carolina passed the law, stripping Charlotte of its ordinance and sparking a national debate over who has the right to use which bathroom. But there is a further debate about the intrusion of government into the deepest corners of what should be private decisions, and when law ceases to protect and begins to validate xenophobia.
Of course, New York compounded the conflagration when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order “banning all non-essential state travel to North Carolina.” Such a reactionary response — though meant to support transgender and LGBT Americans affected by North Carolina’s legalized intolerance — simply restricts freedom of travel by state employees.
North Carolina’s legislation, besides the bathroom provision, also prohibits municipalities from including sexual orientation and gender identity in anti-discrimination measures.
“In New York, we believe that all people — regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation — deserve the same rights and protections under the law,” Cuomo said in a statement issued Monday. “From Stonewall to marriage equality, our state has been a beacon of hope and equality for the LGBT community, and we will not stand idly by as misguided legislation replicates the discrimination of the past. As long as there is a law in North Carolina that creates the grounds for discrimination against LGBT people, I am barring non-essential state travel to that state.”
To reiterate, Cuomo’s intent with this travel ban stands to show solidarity with those targeted by North Carolina’s draconian new measure — which he previously did when Indiana passed a similar law in 2015. But, a show of support could as easily have come in an official condemnation of North Carolina’s law, a suggestion to boycott travel, or an advisory against conducting business there. Handing down an executive order, in this case, amounts to forcing a show of support on New York legislators — whether they sympathize or share the sentiment or not.
Whatever your feelings about North Carolina’s actions, Cuomo missed the mark by foisting travel restrictions on state employees. It isn’t the governor’s show of comradeship with North Carolinians bulldozed by their state’s law that is the problem, it’s the immediate jump to curb people’s liberties.
It has become increasingly apparent that our society has lost the ‘live and let live’ spirit of its roots — and both North Carolina and New York simply underscored that loss.