Governments that signal a lack of inclusiveness pass on indirect costs to affected states, cities and businesses
George B. Cunningham
Monday, Feb 13, 2017
This article was originally published on The Conversation.
When it comes to “bathroom bills” and other legislation that curtails the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals, North Carolina was a first actor. But, if some lawmakers have their way, many states — and even the federal government — will quickly follow suit.
Other states like Wyoming have proposed legislation that allows discrimination against the LGBT community on religious grounds. This bill also forbids government agencies from passing nondiscrimination bills or ordinances.
At the federal level, Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz recently announced that he would reintroduce the First Amendment Defense Act. This bill would prohibit the government from punishing business owners who discriminate against LGBT individuals based on their religious beliefs or moral convictions.
Despite the fervor surrounding these bills, there is a host of problems associated with them. To borrow from Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, discriminatory laws like these are “morally bankrupt and wrong.”
Beyond such moral objections, these bills also carry a host of economic, health and other consequences, as North Carolina has learned. Research in the area of regional economic development, and my own work with sport organizations, shows how laws such as these send a message of exclusion, drive away creative people, and ultimately hurt workplace creativity and performance. As a result, long-term economic prosperity suffers.
Protection of people
Proponents of so-called bathroom bills tend to argue that they’re trying to stop sexual predators and would-be child molesters from abusing local laws that allow trans people to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify. However, there is a no scientific evidence linking members of the LGBT community with child molestation.
Others suggest that men would pretend to be trans so they might be able to assault women and children in women’s restrooms. These fears are not supported by statistics, however, as communities that have inclusive bathroom policies have not witnessed a rise in assault cases.
Thus, the underlying premise — protection of people — is based on outdated stereotypes, faulty science and zero evidence. Rather, discriminatory laws tend to cause harm, in terms of health and well-being.
Researchers have shown that trans individuals who face discrimination are more likely than their peers to attempt suicide. Further, when trans individuals cannot use the restroom that matches their gender identity and expression, they are likely to be harassed and abused.