Kentucky lawmakers should heed all the negative fallout from the potty fixation that has seized their counterparts in North Carolina.
They also should heed the wise words of Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin who recently reiterated that he sees no reason for Kentucky to wade into policing where transgender people go to the bathroom.
“Why? Why would we?” Bevin replied to a question at a Dec. 9 news conference. “Why would anybody need it? Is it an issue? Is there anyone you know in Kentucky who has trouble going to the bathroom?” Touting his move to cut red tape, Bevin called it “silly” to create “government rules for things that don’t even need government rules,” consistent with what he said as a candidate.
North Carolina, where a special legislative session this week failed to repeal its noxious Public Facilities & Security Act, can only wish that its Republican governor and lawmakers had been as sensible.
The Tar Heel State has reaped a whirlwind of lost jobs, canceled concerts and sports events, not to mention reputational damage, since the legislature last spring banned local governments from enacting protections for LGBT people, including the right to use restrooms consistent with one’s gender identity.
Whether Bevin’s fellow Republicans, newly in control of both legislative chambers, will adopt his sensible approach remains to be seen.
Stirring up bathroom-related fears was a theme for Republican legislative candidates in their successful campaigns which overwhelmingly ended almost a century of Democratic control of the House. The Republican-controlled Senate approved a bill in 2015 that substituted lawmakers’ prejudices for the judgment of educators. Republican Speaker-elect Jeff Hoover recently said the sanctity of the bathroom is something his House GOP caucus will “have to look at.”
Bathroom-based anxiety is a big issue for the Kentucky Family Foundation, which must be finding it rewarding to stir up baseless fears of girls and young women being forced into co-ed locker rooms.
This potty-noia is just the latest permutation in the political culture wars that always require an “other” to stigmatize, fear and demean.
Public schools in Kentucky have shown they are perfectly capable of coming up with policies that are respectful and protective toward all students.
The legislature should, as Bevin said, leave the issue to schools at the local level. Bevin so strongly supports local control that he made Kentucky one of the states suing the Obama administration over its (in our opinion sound) advice to schools that students should be able to use restrooms and facilities that match their gender identities.
If Kentucky’s new Republican majority is as serious as it claims to be about spurring economic growth, it won’t inflict a North Carolina-style wound on Kentucky by enacting a discriminatory law that would be, as the Republican governor says, unnecessary and silly.