by Dr. Roy Cordato
Senior Economist, Emeritas
Target department stores have decided to open their bathrooms and changing rooms to transgendered individuals. A spokesman for the company told CNN that “We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. Everyone deserves to feel like they belong.”
What no one has commented on is that, despite all of the (false) rhetoric about North Carolina banning such decisions, there is nothing in the state’s recently passed HB2 that makes Target’s decision illegal in the state or even discourages it. As I have previously noted, under North Carolina’s new law every business in the state has the right to exercise this same option.
Here’s the point, in the city of Charlotte, if its law had remained in place, Target would have lost its right to make such a decision. You might ask, how could this be? After all, the Charlotte bathroom ordinance would have barely impacted Target, since it would be mandating that the department store do at least something close to what it is doing anyway. But such a response would demonstrate a lack of understanding of what the concept of rights is all about.
If an individual or business has a right to do something or make a decision it automatically implies that it has the right not to do it. The right to freely speak implies the right to keep quiet; the right to freely exercise the religion of your choice also implies the right to be an atheist; and the right to vote implies the right to stay home on election day. All of these these things would cease being rights and instead become legal obligations if they were mandated, even if one were going to speak, practice a religion, or vote, anyway.
True rights cannot exist in a framework of coercion. So when the city of Charlotte mandated that businesses allow essentially anyone to use any bathroom, locker room, or shower facilities they choose (remember no proof of being transgendered was required) they took away the right of all businesses, including Target, to make that decision one way or the other. If a law mandated that North Carolina citizens all had to be Catholic, it would be quite clear that everyone’s religious freedom would be being denied, even those who would choose to be Catholic anyway.
[As an aside it should be noted that even Target’s current decision to allow transgendered people to use whatever bathroom they feel most comfortable using might have been illegal under the Charlotte ordinance, since it appears that Target stores are applying a rule that the individuals in question actually need be transgendered. In other words, under the Charlotte ordinance, as passed, Target’s decision might still have been considered discriminatory and therefore illegal.]
As noted above, it is being reported almost everywhere that the state of North Carolina has taken away businesses’ rights to choose who they can and cannot allow into their bathroom, locker room, and shower facilities. As (falsely) reported recently by CNN:
State legislatures around the U.S. have in recent months debated proposals that would force individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds with the sex listed on their birth certificate. The governor of North Carolina signed such a bill in late March.
The clear implication is that North Carolina mandates a specific rule for businesses to adopt, namely that “individuals [must] use the bathroom that corresponds with the sex listed on their birth certificate.” Such a law, if it were truly in place, would be denying Target its legitimate rights as a business and, in North Carolina, they would not be allowed to do what they are doing. But in fact HB 2, in striking down the Charlotte ordinance, assures Target and all other businesses their right to allow anyone they want in any of its bathroom, locker room or shower facilities. Target, as a business that wants to make sure that transgendered individuals feel comfortable in its stores by opening up its bathroom facilities to people based on their gender identity, is left much freer to do as it sees fit under current North Carolina law than it was under the Charlotte ordinance that HB2 overturned.