It’s been an interesting week for the State of Arizona. Earlier this week, the House Appropriations Committee passed a bill (SB 1045) that would allow a business to decide what rules they have in place in regards to their restroom, locker room and changing areas. The bill came in answer to the anti-discrimination ordinance pushed through and was passed last month by the Phoenix City Council, which states that a business can’t discriminate against a person because of their sexual orientation which would include gays, lesbians, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals. Opponents of the ordinance felt that businesses could be the target of easy discrimination lawsuits if they were to fire an employee or refuse service to customer. All they would have to do is cry that their needs weren’t met because of their sexual orientation.
Now, nobody likes to be discriminated against, but the issue isn’t just about that anymore. The issue both opponents and supporters of SB 1045 decided to focus on is bathrooms which is the smallest part of the issue. Opponents state that transgender people have a right to use whatever bathroom, locker room or changing area they want as long as they associate themselves with a particular gender. In other words, if a transgender man thinks of himself as a woman and dresses as such (despite still having male parts) then they feel they should still be allowed to use the women’s restroom. The same thing goes for trans-women who prefer to use the men’s room.
While Phoenix’s ordinance is far reaching and can hurt businesses who will now be powerless to enforce their own privacy policies, there is another more pressing issue here, individual rights. When Phoenix’s ordinance came to a vote, its supporters tried to claim it was for the good of everyone. They said discrimination of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and in particular transgender individuals had to be stopped. Of course, during that City Council meeting when opponents of the proposed law spoke their mind, some of them were booed and heckled. The concerns of opponents were valid. The way the law was written gave an advantage to those with some very bad intent because with every law created there are those who will exploit it.
Pedophiles and rapists could dress as women, enter a restroom where there victim is and intend to do harm to them. Supporters scoffed at the idea as utter nonsense. Regardless of the valid concerns by the opposition, the ordinance was passed despite much of the public not knowing about it or even being allowed to testify their feelings publicly. The liberals cheered while conservatives walked away shaking their heads in disbelief. It was simply one group in the minority feeling the need to push their position on the majority. Believe it or not, that is not only intolerant but a form of discrimination.
Fast forward a month later. SB 1432 was put forth to neutralize the Phoenix bill at least in the part that dealt with bathrooms. This time members of the State Legislature put forth a bill that would make it crime for a person to be in the restroom of their opposite gender. In other words a man couldn’t use the woman’s restroom and vice versa. If they did they faced arrest and a $2500 fine. This didn’t sit well with the transgender community and their supporters who thought the bill was mean spirited and outright discrimination. The bill’s main sponsor Representative John Kavanagh (Dist, 23) decided to kill the bill and re-drafted a new one. This time he decided to meet opponents of the bill half-way and decided to dump the criminal portion of the bill.
In the new Bathroom Bill aka SB 1045 it gave businesses the right to set their own rules for restroom, locker room and changing room use. It also states that a business can’t be sued if they remove someone from a particular bathroom that doesn’t match their sex. It seems reasonable enough. If you were born a man or a woman then use part of the facility that matches your gender. All is well since that’s the way things are now.
You’d think that after dumping the criminal portion of the bill, it’s opponents in the would be happy right? Wrong. This time they claimed that now businesses would be able to legally discriminate. Forget a business being allowed to do everything in their power to make sure their customers are safe from the bad guys who could easily dress as a woman to gain access to a locker room or restroom area to assault their victims. Yes, even a child can fall victim to a predator dressed as a person of the opposite gender. I’m not talking about an innocent transgender person wanting to use the bathroom like every other human to do their natural business, but a vicious predator who’s main intent is to do bad things to their victim. Did you know a business could be sued or lose business if they don’t make some kind of effort to keep their customers safe?
Now, this might be the lesson in tolerance here for the NO ON SB 1045 people that attended the recent AZ House Appropriations meeting. When SB 1045 was being considered, both sides had their position and were ready to do battle. Some people wrote to the Committee members with their concerns, while others showed up to personally comment as well. While transgender people and their supporters attended the meeting to speak against the bill, one person came in support of it. Whether you support it or not, the biggest entity that gets put in harms way over this type of issue are businesses themselves. They have to worry about the costs involved to make accommodations for a certain group’s need. To add a gender neutral bathroom (or a uni-sex bathroom) or re-design an already existing bathroom area to accommodate a particular group costs money. Also, businesses that have locker room areas have to worry about their kids seeing a man’s or woman’s private parts especially if they have shower areas. Businesses have to think about safety first with their customers.
Another problem for businesses owners is when they hold special events at other facilities. Yes, not all businesses are brick and mortar these days and when you host an event at a large facility, you have to enforce policy, especially when its a public safety issue. That is an easily forgotten legal boundary because if a business hosts a function at another establishment then they could be held liable for what their attendees do. In many instances a business wanting to host an event at a private facility has to sign all sorts of documents including one for insurance and liability.
Now, one of the biggest arguments heard at the AZ House Appropriations Committee was how SB 1045 would give business owners the right to legally discriminate. Actually, that isn’t true. It only gives businesses the right to put together their own set of rules to protect their patrons and keep things safe. If you ask me, this is a unique opportunity for transgendered folks to work with business owners to find a common ground. Instead of forcing business owners to bend to their will (which is the minority not the majority) they could offer businesses that have separate bathrooms, the money to make the necessary accommodations.
In both the Phoenix fight and now the AZ Legislative fight the opposition never mentioned how they’d be willing to help a business monetarily to solve the problem. Instead of finding a solution the NO ON SB 1045 saw only a problem that affected them and not willing to see it from the other side’s viewpoint. That often happens in a fight.
This whole bathroom battle brings up another case which happened several years ago. A business owner in Scottsdale received several complaints about a transgender individual dressed in women’s clothing in the women’s room. Yes, it was women that complained and the business owner had to do something to protect his other patrons. The owner then banned the transgender individual from the establishment and they in turn sued the business owner for discrimination. The matter was eventually settled but not before it set off a media hailstorm and cost the business owner thousands of dollars to fight the matter. Also, to help curb the few acts of violence against gay, lesbian and transsexual citizens the City Council voted and passed an ordinance that would prevent discrimination against them on the city level and cover Scottsdale employees and facilities.
However, the key point was city level. The mayor at the time Mary Manross felt that city government had no right to impose the rule on privately owned businesses and allowed them to enforce their own policies and decide how to handle it. Phoenix could’ve learned something from the City of Scottsdale. Remember, Scottsdale is pretty conservative and yet they passed a law which met the LGBT community half-way and gave businesses the right to put together their own policies regarding how bathrooms and other issues are handled.
Phoenix’s ordinance should have done the same thing. Keep things on the city level and not demand that businesses conform. Instead, because one group demanded equality and were the minority they pushed through a blanket law which put businesses in a no win situation. In fact, if the Phoenix City Council hadn’t overreached and forced business owners in such a tight position, SB 1045 probably wouldn’t have been created in the first place. No doubt, Representative Kavanagh like the other Republican members of the Appropriations Committee heard from many business owners and citizens on this issue.
What the NO ON SB 1045 advocates probably don’t realize is that there is more than just one person who was for the bill. One business person did show up in person to express their support, but it wasn’t to attack transgenders or even label them as bad people. It was because they had a concern about business rights being protected and they wanted to be heard. While that person faced some anger by the opposition after the vote came down, it takes a real act of courage to make a stand against what is seemingly overwhelming odds. There were about 100 people from the public in that room who were against the bill and one stood for it, said their peace and walked out.
Yes, they like the opposition were frustrated, but what isn’t known is that this individual being on the opposite side of the line had a pleasant conversation with a few NO ON SB 1045 people outside the House building, and one of them was a transgender person. Neither side showed anger towards the other. Neither side threatened the other and they didn’t get into a verbal altercation that spilled out into the streets. In fact, in a brief moment outside the halls of state government there was a bit of peace and civility that happened. Both sides were tired and frustrated as it had been a long day. However, even though they were on different sides of the line, they could talk to each other without one fearing the other. In one small moment there was a moment of peace and the realization that while they differed in position, they didn’t really hate each other. They just had a difference in opinion and both sides felt it was OK to have it.
I think this issue has brought out one lesson for the liberal left. It’s about tolerance. If you want to gain acceptance and want to end discrimination then you have to be tolerant yourself. Conservatives have learned to be tolerant because the golden rule, a sense of family values, a solid base of communication, and of course the need to work for what they want is a mainstay. Conservatives believe in the rule of Constitutional law and while it may seem like we’re stubborn at times, we just are fighting for what we believe in.
SB 1045, the Phoenix anti-discrimination ordinance, gay marriage and other issues like them will always be hot issues. The liberal left will always claim they’re looking out for our greater good by insisting that the public embrace their logic and position. They’ve played every card they can think of, from race to disability, but pushing and bullying to get your way won’t get you anywhere. Eventually, the other side pushes back. This is how things like SB 1045 came to exist. If Phoenix had done what Scottsdale did by leaving businesses alone, the state never would have stepped in. In fact, after Scottsdale voted on their less intrusive discrimination ordinance, the state never stepped in to propose their own bill to stop it.
Here is a thought for the liberal left. If you are going to use government to push your position, don’t complain when at some point the opposition uses it to push back. Government is a two way street and if you give it more power, it becomes a road, then eventually a freeway. You’re getting a lesson in tolerance here, because in order to have it you have to be tolerant. Discrimination unfortunately happens in the human world but forcing someone to believe what you believe is never the answer in ending it. This is something the liberal position has never understood.
As for the LBGT community, you’re struggling for acceptance and its understandable. Nobody likes discrimination, but boycotts against businesses for not building you a special bathroom, stall or giving you that special changing area isn’t the answer. The best way to get a business to offer something you want is by suggesting it. If a business can’t do it (usually any re-design requires money) then ask why and offer to help. Demanding a business change the rules for the minority never works. Remember Chick-fil-A? The LBGT community boycotted them demanding a policy be changed, yet they had more consumers come out in support of the business and they had a record breaking day financially.
Finding common ground between opposing sides isn’t easy, but it can be found. To bully those who disagree with your position results in nothing more than black and blue marks. SB 1045 was bound to cause a rift between people just like anything else that government proposes. With all the media attention on these types of issues it’s no wonder we all don’t fight each other for the rest of our lives.
One of the biggest issues brought up by the left is equality. They suggest that the reason they’re fighting for gay marriage (for example) is because they want equality. Little did they realize that their demands weren’t met with it. The same thing happened with SB 1045. In all their fighting to stop it in the name of equality they may not have realized just how much they hurt their cause. When one group of people puts their feelings and values over another it isn’t equal at all. However, when you solve the problem together without government (no the Phoenix bill didn’t help matters) involvement then that is more equal and you certainly get more accomplished.
I think the liberals would be surprised just how much conservatives want things to be equal for everyone in this country. The United States Constitution was all about equality and that is a rule book conservatives value. But equality requires everyone to treat each other with civility. When you hate, fear grows. Everyone is different, but when you force your differences onto another person, you’re bound to get resistance. This is why things like the Phoenix ordinance, gay marriage and every other liberal proposal has been met with so much anger and stopping power. It’s similar to creating what seems like the perfect product. When you rush things into production and demand people or even machines to work faster to get it out of the factory, the more problems you face withe quality of it. You’re also not going to get everyone to buy it either.
This is what liberals and even some conservatives need to learn. You won’t get everyone to think the same way you do. Sure, it’d be great if they did, but we don’t live in a perfect world. There are going to be rules we don’t like, people we can’t stand and decisions that are unpopular. However, when you come together to solve a problem that both sides have, then progress can happen. It has happened in our country but until we realize that life isn’t perfect then we’ll be stuck fighting what always seems to be a no win situation. Right now there is one thing both sides can agree on and that’s to disagree. I guess we have to start somewhere.