It didn’t start in a North Carolina bathroom. But maybe that’s where it should end.
Several states in the country have passed similar versions of a law enacted by legislature called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” These laws basically state that an individual who holds “deeply held religious beliefs” has the option of refusing to give services, or to be a part of, a situation they deem against those deeply held religious beliefs. These situations have largely been attributed to participating, or serving, in events linked to the LGBT population, such as weddings and birthdays.
These states are, in chronological order of enactment: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Florida, Illinois, Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina, Texas, Idaho, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Mississippi, and Indiana. Laws pending in North Carolina, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, Arkansas, and Nevada.
In this ongoing debate, a few weeks ago, North Carolina passed a law–House Bill 2, or HB2– that requires schools and public agencies to have gender-segregated bathrooms and to prevent people from using a bathroom that doesn’t correspond to their biological sex at birth. This has been interpreted by many as a state sponsored demonstration of anti-LGBT legislation, specifically targeting the transgender community. Several artists, including Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, and Cirque du Soleil have canceled events in the state–and companies such as PayPal, Pepsi, and Lionsgate have cancelled plans to build or expand new operations in the state—both as a sign of protest against HB2 and support to the LGBT community. It is estimated that backlash from HB2 could cost North Carolina up to 5 billion dollars in revenue a year. And now North Carolina and the Justice Department have both filed dueling lawsuits, playing a political Mexican standoff over transgender rights.
It seems, for many, silly to think that North Carolina would have a way to enforce such law, or to even validate enduring the consequences of moving forward with it. But is it really about an epidemic of perverted old men dressed in miniskirts, high heels, and cheap mascara lurking in the shadows of the girls’ bathroom in search of innocent prey? Or is it perhaps grounded on something else?
Could it be perhaps a final punch from the wild zebra who is scratching and kicking as it goes down about to become the lion’s dinner in the African savanna? The zebra feels the lion’s teeth on its jugular, its claws on its flesh. The zebra feels the least it can do is to give it all, kicking the lion in the groin, biting its scalp, bumping its face, all in an attempt of a practically impossible escape, or to at least go down with a bit of aggressive dignity.
In this analogy, the zebra is the evangelical religious right, afraid that their traditional “one man and one woman” doctrine is being attacked by a culture growing away from a belief that homosexuality is “an abomination” and “perversion.” The lion is the liberal LGBT-friendly politician, who seeks ways to undermine the purity of their beliefs by taking the life out of the innocent prey and “end marriage as we know it.” And the African savanna is the American court of public opinion, where a population is increasingly more accepting of same gender relations and of those who are different.
The religious right–the zebra–feels the end of the cultural fight is coming to an end. The Supreme Court–the lion–gave them a deadly blow by legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states. What is the zebra to do on its way down? Not much, but throw some final blows to preserve its dignity, and to let the observant crowd know that, even though the lion may win this fight, they went down stating their position loud and firmly: “Being gay is dirty. The gays are perverted. You may change the laws, but you will never change the conviction of sanctity we have received directly from God . . . No Bathrooms for You!”
In this epic battle of faith and reason, tradition and progress, and perhaps even primitive instinct and human evolution, I understand the zebra’s attacks. The Christian right may not even be fully aware of the source of its rage–it runs far too deep—they instinctively respond with kicking and shouts of “silent majority,” throwing punches oblivious to collateral damage and public degradation. Handicapped by their own hypocrisy, they replace the word “God,” with the term “values.” Crippled by intellectual erosion they say “protect children,” while internally they wish they could shout “dirty freaks.” Living in a cloud of ancient fantasy they scream “religious freedom” because we refuse to denigrate an entire community based of an idea humanity had thousands of years ago.
Christianity is whining and complaining for losing an ounce of the privilege it had for hundreds of years—the right to politely discriminate while defending their actions with the ever so patronizing, “I didn’t say it. God did.” As a spoiled little brat they act out with passive aggressive legislation, hoping that, as it has happened before, people will bend over in fear of losing their eternal souls, held at ransom with an illusion of sanctity.
So kick and scream, you wild zebra. You are fun to watch. This holy tantrum simply validates the growing sentiment that, in life as it is in the bathroom, some things are better left behind. Demonizing, judging, and discriminating in the name of Jesus, well, are about to get flushed down. And it’s about damn time.