It's not about bathrooms, OK?
It's never been about bathrooms. Anybody who tells you any different is misleading you—either unintentionally or on purpose.
When the Arkansas-side Board of Directors unanimously passed the city's new anti-discrimination ordinance, they likely expected some backlash. But I doubt they anticipated the extent of the resulting uproar.
It didn't take long for opponents of the ordinance to organize and begin a petition drive to have the matter placed before the voters. They gathered enough signatures and there will be an election June 28 on whether or not to keep the ordinance.
All well and good. That's why we have the system we have. Citizens can take a grievance to the polls if they can get enough backing.
But it wasn't an honest effort. Those who signed the petition were sold a false premise. And the bad information spread like wildfire across social media.
The ordinance says the city will not discriminate in selecting vendors, employment or providing city services "because of race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, political opinions or affiliation."
It also states that city contracts with private vendors will contain a clause stating the vendor agrees not to discriminate as well.
That's it. The city won't discriminate. If you choose to do business with the city you have to agree not to discriminate.
It doesn't affect individuals or churches or private business unless they do business with the city. Doesn't affect them at all.
The main purpose of the ordinance was to put the city on a better footing with companies that might be thinking of locating here. Many large businesses already have such policies in place. And they like to see the same policies in cities where they choose to do business.
Does it guarantee new industries and good jobs? Not at all. It's just something that could add to the city's appeal.
So how did the bathroom nonsense come into play?
Those opposed to the ordinance needed something salacious to sell to residents. They wanted to flame fear. So they hit upon the "gender identity" section of the law and came up with the idea that the city was trying to let men with lewd intentions into women's restrooms. Those who fell for the line took things further. Subsequent online discussions speculated that hordes of predatory men would now claim to be women and head for the ladies room with evil on their minds.
Here's the thing, though. No law prevents a man from going into a ladies room, nor a woman from entering a men's room. This ordinance doesn't change that in any way. Let me say that again. This ordinance doesn't change that in any way. Restroom access is exactly the same as before the ordinance was passed. It will be exactly the same if the ordinance is repealed.
Because this has nothing to do with bathrooms.
In the private sector, federal standards already require employers to allow workers to use the restroom appropriate to the gender they identify with. If an employer chooses not to allow an employee to do so, a court date could be forthcoming. The Arkansas-side ordinance doesn't change that.
If a private business provides restrooms for customers then they could post a sign declaring men only or women only on the doors. Or they could hire guards to make sure—however they might do so—only men go into the gents and only women into the ladies. But they are opening themselves to a lawsuit in either case. The Arkansas-side ordinance doesn't have any effect on that, either.
The Arkansas-side ordinance says the city (and those it does business with) will not discriminate based on a number of factors, including religion and political beliefs. But those opposed have focused on gender identity and exploited unfounded fears in their efforts for repeal.
And their "false witness" could bear fruit come June if voters side with fear over reason.