As a matter of policy, the Governor McCrory’s recent executive order on HB2 makes little sense. As a matter of politics, it makes perfect sense.
Let’s look at some inconsistencies:
“Transgender Bathroom Choice Is Dangerous . . . But Not That Dangerous”
The order reaffirms the transgender bathroom ban - it “maintains common sense gender-specific restroom and locker room facilities in government buildings and schools.”
McCrory not only believes the law is “common sense” - he’s said that allowing transgender people to use either bathroom could “create major public safety issues by putting citizens in possible danger from deviant actions by individuals taking improper advantage of a bad policy.”
If the current law is so great, and the alternative is so dangerous, you might assume the governor would want to require all bathrooms in North Carolina to follow that standard.
The order “affirms the private sector’s right to establish its own restroom and locker room policies.” There’s still plenty of room for those “deviant actions” the governor is supposedly so worried about.
“LGBT Protections Are Important . . . But Not That Important”
The governor’s order also “expands the state’s employment policy for state employees to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.” Makes sense. In fact, it makes so much sense that you might assume the governor would want all businesses in North Carolina to follow that standard.
The order “affirms the private sector and local governments’ right to establish non-discrimination employment policies for its own employees.” In other words, businesses can still discriminate against LGBT people if they want to but city and state employees are safe.
“A Firm Belief In Limited Government . . . Sometimes”
You might assume that the governor’s limited actions on bathrooms and employment are consistent with a conservative commitment to limited government. He doesn’t want the government to interfere with the bathroom or employment policies of private businesses because, as he said in a statement accompanying his order, he wants “people and businesses to be as independent as possible without overreaching government regulation.”
Conservatives clearly have no problem requiring other types of protections of the private sector. HB2 (the bill that spawned the executive order) requires every business with more than 15 employees not to discriminate on the basis of “race, religion, color, national origin, age, biological sex or handicap”. A truly limited government approach would allow businesses to make their own policies on all of those areas - something that nobody is arguing for.
If racial and religious non-discrimination can be required by state law, why leave LGBT non-discrimination policies up to individual businesses?
It’s All Politics
Put it all together, and you’ve got an order that gives gender identity protections to state employees while simultaneously refusing state bathroom access on the basis of gender identity. As a policy, it just doesn’t make sense.
But the order is very easy to understand as a purely political maneuver.
Instead of fully committing to either side, the governor throws a bone to both of them. Keep conservatives fired up on the transgender bathroom issue and placate liberals with expanded protections for state employees. With luck, casual observers may mistakenly believe the order adds protections for all employees who work in North Carolina, not just the employees who work for it.
Plenty of people will see through this, of course, but the order could dampen liberal passions just enough to help McCrory squeak back into office this November.
I’m not sure what’s worse: the fact that the move is so blatantly political, or the fact that it might actually work.