North Carolina politics

Flush with controversy, 'bathroom bill' coverage skirts faith-based roots of opposition

Flush with controversy, 'bathroom bill' coverage skirts faith-based roots of opposition

There have been many times in recent months that I've thought of the late "philosopher" Rodney King, Jr., whose plaintive "Can we all just get along?" (often misquoted as "can't") resounded across the nation following the 1992 Los Angeles riots. (King, who died four years ago, was the police beating victim; an acquittal in the case involving four officers accused of harming him set off the disturbances.)

Can we all just get along, then, when it comes to gender and bathroom usage? And is there a spiritual and even doctrinal angle -- on one side of this public debate -- that is missing in the latest flush of coverage about North Carolina?

You probably know the background: A move early in 2016 by Charlotte's city council to allow transgender individuals to use the restroom of their choice in any "public accommodation" in the city brought a backlash from the North Carolina legislature, which outlawed such protections statewide. The state ban brought economic and artistic boycotts, and allegedly cost the state hundreds of jobs. The most prominent job loss might have been that of Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, who narrowly lost a re-election bid in November.

This week, a "compromise" of sorts was reached: Charlotte said it would repeal its ordinance if the legislature would "fully repeal" HB 2, the much-derided ban. The Charlotte repeal included some phrases legislative Republicans didn't like; the proposed state measures included wording the Democrats didn't like. The result: No repeal of HB2 and uncertainty in Charlotte.
 
So what's the religion angle, you ask? You will barely find it in the media coverage, such as The New York Times, which had reporters in Raleigh and Atlanta on the case:

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Out of the (water) closet: New York Times surveys backlash on Obama 'bathroom' order

Out of the (water) closet: New York Times surveys backlash on Obama 'bathroom' order

The pushback against the Obama administration's latest directive, to open all school bathrooms and locker rooms to transgender people -- using federal funding as a bit of blackmail -- gets a broad indepth article from the New York Times.

But the Gray Lady raises more questions than she answers -- and doesn't ask some that she should.

The story draws broadly from several front lines. It tells of a march in rural Georgia and a demonstration in Fort Worth over the issue.  Also a vow by the school district in Marion County, Fla., to fight a complaint from the ACLU. And eight states have sided with North Carolina in its legal fight with the federal government, which is suing the Tar Heel State over its bathroom law.

And -- an important fact -- the paper reveals that everyone is pretty much arguing blind about transgender regulations:

Advocates on both sides said they suspect that most school districts did not have explicit policies defining gender. There are districts that allow transgender students to use the facilities that match their identities, and districts that prohibit it, but no definitive count of either group.

The article is thickly referenced with seven linked articles, most of them from the Times itself. But in contrast to many roundup-style pieces, this one adds new info and interviews. It includes at least 10 quoted sources, including interviews and a press conference with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas. And the opinions represent not only both sides, but a few points in between.

Unfortunately, some of the quotes amount to mere posturing:

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