Even as the presidential race dominates nearly every news cycle, a second socio-political drama is playing out just below the biggest print. As the President presses for a nationwide ban on discriminatory bathroom laws, at least two states are standing in stark opposition. North Carolina has been in the headlines for weeks as the governor has refused to capitulate to federal threats. Now he has an ally in one of the largest and richest states in the union. Texas’ Lt. Governor Dan Patrick went on record saying the state is more than willing to forfeit billions of federal education dollars if that’s the price to pay for ignoring the Obama administration’s school bathroom requirements.
It’s a battle that won’t end anytime soon, and it’s drawing millions into picking sides in a delineation that threatens to have a strong impact on the coming elections in November. While both presidential candidates seem to be okay with letting whoever use whatever restroom they please, congressional candidates are taking stands at the state and federal levels. Some, even when they’d rather stick to other issues.
While the threat of losing federal education funds is a massive stick the President can wield, that reality may be lost on voters who are enraged at the idea of sickos using transgender laws to gain access to vulnerable children. It’s not discrimination, they scream, it’s logic and fear for the safety of our kids. Try arguing against that and winning in a red state. Good luck guys and gals.
Given those pressures, it’s likely Patrick will not be the only state politician to speak out. At present, Texas receives about $10 billion in federal education funding, but it’s also the state with a growing secession movement and strong, deeply red politics pretty much everywhere but Austin.
Others are coming out in favor of equal access – or, at least the cash. Down in Georgia, some county school superintendents have gone on record that state transgendered people are protected under the Civil Rights Act, adding that surrendering millions in deferral funding isn’t something they are willing to contemplate. Cue the vociferous denouncement from angry supporters of North Carolina’s law who are unwilling to budge on this issue.
Meanwhile, Texas also recently jumped into a lawsuit with Virginia where transgender bathroom use is at the center of the case. US Attorney Loretta Lynch isn’t about to give any ground, saying there’s “no room in our schools for discrimination.” Her opponents at the state level are arguing “common sense” and “federal overreach.”
At this point, the battle is just getting warmed up in the courts, but in the court of public opinion, it is roaring white hot. Social media can’t go five minutes without a pitched battle, and all the cable news shows are pounding the issue from their perspective. Come November, if voters are not fatigued by all the back and forth, they are likely to be ramped up and ready to let their opinion be heard at the ballot box.
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