Discrimination is illegal throughout the majority of countries although there are notable exceptions. As an admittedly broad statement, discrimination is more likely in those places with poor records of human rights.
In general terms, it tends to be accepted that we must not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, age, physical size and so on.
But, and it is a big but, the United States of America falls down in the pursuit of everybody having equal opportunity and equal rights. And the reason for that is because each of the country’s 50 states can pass any law it likes as long as it does not contravene federal law or the constitution.
That is how the state of North Carolina now has a controversial and widely denounced new law relating to discrimination including the use of public restrooms or bathrooms.
An emergency session of North Carolina’s General Assembly passed the House Bill 2 (HB2) – or the ‘bathroom bill’ – on March 23 and Governor Pat McCrory signed it into law that same night.
It made the state’s law on antidiscrimination – which covers race, religion, national origin, color, age, biological sex and handicaps – the final word. Meaning cities and local governments can’t expand ‘employment’ or ‘public accommodations’ protections to others, such as on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Minimum wage also falls under the state’s antidiscrimination law, so this law means local governments aren’t able to set their own minimum wages beyond the state standard.
In reality, the ‘Bathroom Bill’ was designed to stop people of the LGBT communities from using bathrooms appropriate to their perceived gender. Instead, they are required to use those of their birth gender – although how that is to be enforced is not clear. Will everyone who appears to be a woman be required to prove they are physically a female, or show a birth certificate, before being allowed into a public bathroom? It is all too silly for words.
Now, the law is being challenged as being possibly unconstitutional and in contravention of federal anti-discrimination legislation. It’s a mess.
What is even more funny is that the new law is civil not criminal. There is no risk of arrest if someone ignores it.