Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ben Hall and the "right to vote"

I felt a deep discomfort when I saw this tweet from a Houston Chronicle reporter about mayoral candidate Ben Hall.
No, this isn't opposition to HERO, the disputed anti-LGBT discrimination ordinance passed by the Houston city council that is now going to a November popular vote. Instead, this is something very specific. Some background, from Elliott again:
Longtime anti-gay activist Dave Wilson has filed a lawsuit against the city of Houston, seeking to force officials to count the signatures on his petition to amend city charter and bar men "who perceive or express themselves as women" from entering women's restrooms...

The specific language of Wilson's charter amendment seeks to define gender identity "as an individual's innate identification, as either male or female, which is assigned at birth." It would require businesses to adopt the same definition.
There is a big difference between the religious liberty concerns associated with legalizing gay marriage and the (for lack of a better word) trans-baiting going on here.

Why Trans-Baiting?

I understand (but don't agree with) people who say transgender people should not transition to the gender with which they identify. But if you hold that view, two things should naturally follow:
  1. Transgender people should be allowed to transition, even if you personally disagree.
  2. The idea that men will use anti-discrimination laws to legally allow preying on or harassing women in restrooms is unfounded.
Why do I include number 2? Because that's exactly Wilson's logic for why the city should legally define gender identity in this way.
But no “biological male” has any business in a girls’ or women’s bathroom. The possibilities for sexual harassment and abuse, to say nothing of outright sexual assault, are just too great.
Never mind that there is no known case of this ever happening. Never mind that transgender people are magnitudes more at risk of assault than the other way around if they use the restroom of their biological gender.

Wilson's claims fail to stand against scrutiny. But those claims could seriously impact the lives of transgender people living in Houston.

A Big Government Proposal

To avoid controversy, Houston Mayor Annise Parker dropped provisions from HERO specifically requiring businesses open to the public to allow people to use the restroom of whatever gender with which they identify.Wilson's amendment does the opposite- it would require private businesses to exclude transgender people from the restroom of their identified gender.

We can have a healthy debate if laws should forbid people from discriminating in cases like this, particularly where religious liberty is an issue. We should never have to debate if the law should force people to discriminate.

So back to the charter amendment. Mayoral candidate Ben Hall signed and publicized Wilson's petition calling on Houston residents to vote if transgender people can use their preferred restroom. Hall is using the issue to try to make inroads with conservative voters.
Like many of HERO's conservative critics, Hall has voiced concern that the ordinance would allow men dressed in drag to enter ladies' bathrooms to potentially harm women and children, and he is among those who signed anti-gay activist Dave Wilson's petition to define gender identity.

In staking out that position, Hall has endeared himself to some on the right, including local donor Steven Hotze, who publishes an influential Republican endorsement mailer.

"Hall speaks his mind forthrightly with conviction," Hotze wrote Tuesday in an email sent out through his Conservative Republicans of Texas group.
But is this an issue that should be allowed to be voted on? Part of the point of our Constitution (and more specifically, the Bill of Rights) is to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. Simply shrugging one's shoulders with a cry of "the people should vote!" is not only shallow politics; it's dangerous policy. I am a Republican and a conservative because I believe in limited government, not arbitrary rule of the mob.

I hope conservatives previously misled by Hall's politicking see through the ruse. This type of vote is not protecting the rights of individuals and businesses- it is big government forcing them to discriminate. If this is Ben Hall's idea of protecting the people's right to vote, maybe he needs to retake high school civics.

For more on this year's Houston mayoral election, see this preview of the race from February. 

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