Charisma Caucus

The Bathrooms Are a Distraction

President Obama
(Reuters photo)

I can't believe that I'm writing an article about using the bathroom. But then, I can't believe that at a time when our country is faced with immense challenges such as international Islamist terrorism and fiscal and monetary insanity in Washington, the current presidential administration is obsessing about who uses which bathrooms, going so far as to order public schools nationwide what their bathroom-use policy must be.

Let me state upfront that I will not be proposing a solution to the Great Issue of what constitutes perfectly just bathroom usage. I have long written about the issue of federal overreach by our government in Washington. Being uncomfortable about the federal government's tendency for obnoxious intrusion into seemingly every area of our life, I would prefer that this "problem" be worked out at local and state levels. The purpose of this article is simply to offer an opinion about what is at stake and how weak and objectionable the Obama administration's case is.

The aggressive manner in which the progressive/LGBT alliance is pressing this issue confirms what critics of last year's Supreme Court decision sanctioning gay marriage averred–that once the age-old definition of marriage was legally redefined, the LGBT movement would charge ahead and target another traditional moral and cultural standard. Voilá! Now the Obama administration, which celebrated the Supreme Court's decision, demands that schools let pupils choose which bathroom to use in accordance with their "gender identity" instead of their biological sex, replacing a clear objective standard with a murky subjective one.

I believe that the bathroom-usage issue constitutes a far more intrusive assault on our traditional morés than same-sex marriage. Many Americans who have zero inclination toward homosexuality were willing to accept same-sex marriage on the grounds that what other people do is their business and not our own, and that two gay people getting married isn't going to infringe upon one's own personal space. The bathroom issue is obviously different: Going to the bathroom is one of the most personal and private acts a person does; it is a situation in which individuals can feel particularly vulnerable; and now the government wants to take away that feeling of personal privacy and safety.

The political left is showing considerable inconsistency and hypocrisy on this issue. When it comes to abortion (Roe v. Wade) the left invokes privacy. And that is a "privacy" to commit an act that many Americans abhor. Apparently concern for privacy does not apply in this case.

The left wants to create "safe spaces" where sensitive college students may seek refuge from perceived "micro-aggressions." While I haven't accepted the validity of the micro-aggression concept myself, can't the left see that losing a sense of privacy when using public restroom facilities would feel like a micro-aggression to tens of millions of Americans? If there are to be "safe spaces" in our society, surely Americans should have a sense of security when using a bathroom.

But even then, this administration's eagerness to dictate new national norms for bathroom usage ultimately isn't about gender or sexuality–it's about conditioning freedom-loving Americans to bow to federal power. Here we have Attorney General Loretta Lynch leading the charge toward social re-engineering with her full-court press on the LGBT community's behalf instead of enforcing existing laws that appear to have been broken by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

I suspect that the Obama White House is using this bathroom issue as a diversionary tactic during a crucial election year—a device to energize the countercultural left and force Republicans to spend precious time talking about "bathroom justice" instead of the more pressing issues of how to keep Americans safe and help the economy recover from its Obama-induced sluggishness. Imagine what our founding fathers would think if they came back today. I suspect they'd find the spectacle of bathroom politics to be bizarre and not the business of the executive branch.

Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.


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