TAKING ISSUE WITH MODERATION, COOPERATION AND COMPROMISE
STATES BOYCOTTING STATES IN NOT THE ANSWER
(EXCEPT MAYBE IT IS!)
An editorial in this morning’s Washington Post by Nathan Christiansen makes the argument that city and state governments (San Francisco, New York, Vermont, Washington State and Washington D.C., for example) should not ban travel to North Carolina to protest that state’s “Bathroom Law,” but should instead take a page from Obama’s Cuba initiative, i.e. work with North Carolina to overturn the hateful and hate-filled law. By way of background, Mr. Christensen was a member of the team of attorneys that brought an end to Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and worked to end discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation as harmful and inconsistent with our country’s values. All to the good.
But Mr. Christensen ignores a crucial difference between Cuba and North Carolina: Cuba is not one of the 50 states of the United States. Last time I looked, as an independent nation, Cuba has the right to craft it’s own laws just like France, Germany and China and follow whatever pubic policies it deems appropriate for the Cuban people. We may not agree with Fidel and Raul Castro’s rule but there’s little the United States can do about it save for the Obama initiative.
North Carolina, however, is subject to the laws of the United States and while every state is free to adopt laws to govern their own citizens, no state is free to adopt laws that contravene the decisions of our judicial system and ultimately, the Supreme Court. In our systems of check and balances, our highest court has the final say over what is legal and proper for all 330 million Americans. Sure, technically, the Supreme Court has not specifically included transgender folks as a protected class like other minorities, but given the Court’s decision in favor of same sex marriage in Oberfegell vs. Hodges it’s pretty clear that equal protection for transgender people is only a matter of time given the amount of time lawsuits take to wend their way through our state and Federal legal system.
Mr. Christensen also fails to note why the North Carolina Bathroom Bill has sparked so much controversy and opposition: continued conservative intransigence in the face of the reality of the real world. It took decades of protests, legal challenges to state laws, and a ton of money to finally enshrine the rights of gay men and women to marry. Each other, that is. Nathan Christensen argues that rather than boycotting North Carolina, as Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, and Michael Moore have done, we should instead use “engagement” rounding up business and political leaders to take a trip to North Carolina to educate and enlighten the Republican state legislature to the evil of its ways. Like Obama has done with Cuba.
But this proposal neglects to take into account the years of right wing, Red State battles to undermine and contravene equal rights for all citizens as blatantly illustrated by Red State Voter ID laws. The right wing has a long, rich history of continuing to battle for lost causes long after the rest of the country has accepted the right of Blacks and Whites to marry, that women are indeed qualified to vote, that gays and lesbians have the same right as everyone else to marry. Mr. Christensen states that the boycotts and actions by PayPal, Deutschbank and the NBA are sending the wrong message and could lead to state vs. state battles over social issues thus damaging our economy. Perhaps so.
But for me, this outpouring of approbation over North Carolina’s passage of HB 2, is much more akin to the boycotts of South Africa back in the world wide Anti-Apartheid Boycott Movement of the 1980’s. As nation after nation threw off colonial rule, South Africa’s government refused to reform itself and end it’s brutal apartheid system of government. Begun back in the early 1960’s, the Anti-Apartheid Movement included boycotts against South African produced products and divestitures in South African companies, stocks and bonds. The boycott became successful when corporations like IBM, Mobil, Ford and General Motors joined the effort. And it worked. The resulting loss of billions of dollars in annual trade, convinced the P. W. Botha Government that the nation could no longer ignore the human and civil rights abuses that Apartheid rule had on the people of South Africa.
The North Carolina situation is not, as Christensen believes, amenable to negotiation and cooperation. This is the lesson President Obama has learned in dealing with Republicans in Congress: there is simply no desire for cooperation and compromise on the part of the Republican ruled House and Senate. We liberals have been late to reach the same conclusion as our President has. Our history in dealing with conservatives, Republicans, Tea Baggers and right wingers has been one of hoping that they will come to their senses, will see the error of their ways, can be convinced through rational discussion. But after thirty years, they have not, despite all of our patience, understanding and compassion for their plight. Compromise, negotiation, give-and-take, are simply not “values” that right wingers possess. And this truth has been demonstrated time and time again for decades now.
So, even though the book is pretty much closed on the Constitutional rights of the LGBT members of the American community, what we are witnessing in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee is the continuing battle to impose discriminatory state laws in the face of all rational thought and legal rulings. Mr. Christensen is simply wrong. His role in overturning Oregon’s discriminatory law against same sex marriage, was accomplished as California’s Proposition 8 was adopted then overturned. Years of struggle by the LGBT community that resulted in one state after another, recognizing the rightness of same sex marriage. But that’s history now. It’s done, It’s been accomplished.
But like South Africa’s intransigence in violation of all modern human rights expansion, North Carolina’s “Bathroom Law” is simply an effort to avoid the reality of life in the 21st Century. The boycotts are both necessary and appropriate in the face of North Carolina’s HB2. Mr. Christensen is correct in noting that Obama’s diplomatic initiatives in ending Cuba’s isolation from the United States, is admirable. But North Carolina is not a separate country like Cuba. It is one of the 50 states that make up the United States of America. The time is long past for compromise, negotiation and education. Enough is enough.