I have a friend. Let’s call her Suzannah. She is over six feet tall, blue-eyed, platinum hair in a page boy. Terrific set of gams, as my father would say. She’s married to a smart and talented guy. But here’s a problem. It’s the bathroom law, currently in effect in North Carolina and Georgia and under consideration elsewhere. In the name of religious freedom, such laws hold that you can only use public facilities that match the sex on your birth certificate. But Suzannah was born Stephen. So what’s a transgender woman to do?
Then there’s Chuck, a big burly guy with red hair and beard, usually garbed in jeans, work boots and red and black plaid flannel shirt. Chuck was born Cheryl. So where’s he going to pee? Will the women welcome him in the ladies’ room?
The issue of a bathroom law proposal hasn’t directly hit Massachusetts, first in the nation to sanction gay marriage. But there is a pending transgender accommodation bill, which bans discrimination in public places based on gender identity. It would cover public restrooms, restaurants, shopping centers and other public places.
It would seem pretty simple to be adding gender identity to race, gender, religion, sexual preference as reasons not to discriminate. Alas, there’s nothing simple about this debate, which has engendered (pun intended) the most loathesome vitriol imaginable, including rants from former Red Sox hero Curt Schilling.
Governor Charlie Baker is taking hits from the LGBT community and got booed off the stage at a recent networking event because he hasn’t signed on to the pending anti-discrimination legislation, which passed the state Senate and awaits action in the House. He said he hasn’t taken a position because there’s no bill yet. He’s getting beaten up in the media for that.
He could have said he supports the concept but wants to see the specific language of a bill that lands on his desk. He might have avoided this firestorm. After all, 17 other states have passed such laws. Baker himself has been a supporter of gay rights, including gay marriage, and tapped a gay legislator as his running mate in his first bid for the corner office. He’s been pro LGB, and I suspect he’ll get with the “T” part of the program if the bill hits his desk.
Still, his foot dragging suggests that Baker may have his eye on higher office down the road. Happily, for now, he’s well to the left of the national GOP. I’d hate to think that Potomac Fever might do to Charlie Baker what it did to Mitt Romney as soon as Romney moved his personal belongings into the governor’s office.
I welcome your comments in the section below. To be alerted when a new blog is posted, click on “Follow’ in the lower right portion of your screen.