Columns

Bathroom Bill Proponent Calls Efforts 'Battle Over Who We Are as Human Beings'

Supporters of the new state rule which allows transgender people access to rest and locker rooms of their chosen gender stand on the steps of the Temple of Justice in Olympia, Wash., on Feb. 15, 2016. (Steve Bloom/The Olympian via AP)

John Helmberger, chief executive officer of the Minnesota Family Council & Institute, told PJM America’s debate over which restroom transgendered people should use is far from a trivial matter.

Helmberger said the issue is “erupting because the prevailing worldview on our culture has drifted so far from the Biblical underpinnings that our culture and even our government had when it was founded that it can’t recognize the insanity of this.”

This is an issue that resonates the tuning fork of public opinion like little else. The Washington Post predicted it would be the most contentious topic facing state legislatures across the nation in 2016.

Helmberger said this is a continuation of the fight that began with the crusade against gay marriage. For him, it’s a much more basic debate over the central question: when is a man a man, and a woman a woman.

“It is about a fundamental understanding of who we are as human beings. That battle has now progressed to this stage,” Helmberger said.

“And we don’t see this as the last stage,” he added. “The battle over who we are as human beings created by God as male and female to glorify him; that battle is going to continue as long as people are trying to suppress the knowledge that we are created by God as male and female to glorify him.”

Opponents of legislation to make sure people are pushing open restroom doors that match their birth gender are as emotional about the issue as are those on Helmberger’s side of the debate.

“If you can’t use the bathroom at work, you can’t work,” Maria Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told Five Thirty Eight. “If you can’t use the bathroom at school, you can’t go to school.”

The National Center for Transgender Equality has counted seven state legislatures that are either debating or set to debate the gender question.

North Carolina has faced a ferocious backlash to legislation signed by Gov. Pat McCrory in March that forces transgendered people to use the bathroom or restroom that matches their birth gender.

PayPal CEO Dan Schulman blamed North Carolina’s new LGBT law, HB2, for the company’s decision to drop plans to build a global operations center in Charlotte. That cost North Carolina 400 new jobs.

“The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture,” Schulman said in a statement.

Bruce Springsteen told his fans via a Facebook post he would cancel a Greensboro, N.C., concert because of HB2.

“To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress,” Springsteen wrote.

Helmberger said people like Springsteen should worry more about people in the restrooms to which the transgendered community wants admittance.

“It goes to something that is a fundamental, basic right and expectation, the right and expectation of privacy,” Helmberger said, “in intimate facilities like restrooms and locker rooms especially when you are talking about men invading the privacy of women and young girls.”

Michigan Republican Sen. Tom Casperson told the AP he will push ahead with legislation to keep transgendered people from choosing the public restrooms and locker rooms that match their new gender identities.

He was repulsed by proposed state Board of Education guidelines that would allow transgender students to use the restrooms or locker rooms of their choice.

The motivation for his stand is similar to what motivates others who are pushing to be sure people are using the bathroom that matches their birth gender, not their gender of choice.

Doing otherwise, to Casperson, just seems wrong. However, he said it’s not that being transgendered isn’t “normal.”

“Normal’s not the right word,” he said. “Maybe there’s something there that’s just not right, where we’re mixing these kids together.”

Michigan Republicans, who control the state legislature, were so upset with the new state education guidelines they refused to accept the report.

Another 30 days of public comment was scheduled at the end of March, with the GOP hoping new testimony would lead to a change of direction.

“We want to be very thoughtful in this discussion, hear all of the input, clarify any misconceptions, and modify the guidance to meet the needs of educators, parents and students in creating safe and effective learning environments for all children – including LGBTQ school children,” said Michigan State Board of Education President John C. Austin in a statement.

Austin also told the AP “we don’t want to be another North Carolina.”

State Sen. Lee Bright (R) has introduced legislation in South Carolina that would prohibit local governments from requiring private businesses to provide restroom access based on the identity chosen by a transgendered person.

Bright told the State newspaper he surprised there is even a debate over something that seems so simple to him.

“Men should use the men’s room, and women should use the women’s room – that’s just common sense,” Bright said.

Jeff Ayers, the executive director of South Carolina Equality, an LGBT civil rights group, called Bright’s proposal a case of “sheer government overreach,” and blamed the motivation for such legislation on “acts of desperation.”

“Government simply has no place in our bathrooms,” Ayers said.

Beyond what he sees as the moral right-and-wrong of telling transgendered people which bathroom to use, Ayers wonders how laws like Sen. Bright’s proposal would be enforced.

“Will people need to carry their birth certificates to use the restroom? Will we see DNA testing? Gender inspections/anatomy checks and pat downs? Body scanners? Video cameras?” Ayers said.

Helmberger said all of the red flags being waved by corporations like PayPal, celebrities like Springsteen, and bureaucrats like Michigan Board of Education President Austin can be attributed to the fear of not being politically correct.

“People don’t want to appear to be uncompassionate or discriminatory,” Helmberger said, “and LGBT activists are exploiting that to reward those who will toe the line and advance their message, and to punish any who dare to pull back from or question that.”