Rockwall’s “bathroom” ordinance defeated.

In our little corner of Texas, wildflowers are bloomin’, Texans are sneezin’, and cities are (occasionally) misbehavin’.

Mayor Jim Pruitt, in response to a policy instituted by Target, proposed an ordinance, similar to that in North Carolina, that would have made it a punishable offense ($500 fine) to use a bathroom that did not correspond to the gender indicated on one’s birth certificate.

I do not think that Mayor Pruitt is necessarily a bigot. He is a capable mayor. He may have felt genuine concern for his daughters, however unsupported by fact. He may have been pushed by some of his constituents – donors to one’s campaign have clout in small cities as they do on the national scene.

 

The ordinance did not even go to a vote, as no member of the city council was willing to second it. Several, however, admitted that at first look the ordinance seemed good to them, and they considered voting in favor of it.

How did we defeat it, then?

 

First, let me give props to the LGBT community of North Texas, which quickly mobilized and lent its support. About 100 members came and demonstrated in front of City Hall. Their presence did much to attract the media, both print and TV, to City Hall, which was too small to hold such a crowd – city council meetings, while important to the community, can be a snooze.

 

Given the size of the crowd, the mayor decided to limit comments from the crowd to citizens of Rockwall. About 30 people came forward, most in opposition to the ordinance. They were young and old, some were transgender, some were relatives of transgender men and women, and some were just concerned that our city was discriminating against a tiny minority that seemed fair game to the fire and brimstone brigades.

 

We carried the day because we had a diverse group of speakers, who attacked the ordinance from diverse points of view, and I think what follows may be helpful for other communities in the same situation.

 

 

  1. Some speakers quoted statistics, saying that 8 out of 10 victims of sexual assault know the perpetrator. While there is no evidence of assault BY transgender people, in bathrooms or elsewhere, there is plenty of evidence of assault AGAINST them.
  2. We had testimony from a clinical psychologist, who explained that being transgender is not an easy thing. It is a long ordeal, both physically and psychologically. It is not a choice, and definitely not a “lifestyle”. His comments were based on science, not emotion, but were buttressed by several transgender men and women. One young man said he was so bullied at school, both by students and by teachers refusing to address him by his masculine name, that he had to finish high school by taking online classes. The mother of a transgender student described the anguish of her child, and her own worry given the high suicide rates in the transgender population.
  3. We had testimony from a lawyer, who said that the city’s proposed ordinance is redundant, as assault is already a crime anywhere in the US. It is also unconstitutional, and the city is opening itself to lawsuits, which would probably have to be fought using tax dollars. The proposed ordinance is discriminatory in effect, if not in intent. There would be civil lawsuits, and possibly criminal lawsuits after the first incident of abuse or assault.
  4. We had testimony from the business community. One of the largest employers in Rockwall is the Hilton. Their manager said the proposed ordinance would hurt his business.
  5. We had testimony from a church leader, who said her faith did not support discrimination against minorities, invoked the golden rule of doing unto others as we would have done unto us. Another believer asked “What would Jesus do?”
  6. We did not want to put our police officers on the spot by asking them to offer their take on the situation, but several of them were opposed to the ordinance for practical reasons: how do you enforce the policy, as most people do not carry their birth certificate on them, as there are limited resources and they do not want to play potty police when there are real problems to take care of. Also, how do you control vigilante behavior?
  7. High school students came forward and said that they wanted their school to be inclusive no matter what your race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. They are the voters of the future.
  8. Members of the Rockwall Democratic party spoke against the ordinance, saying that if unfairly targeted a minority and that it was unconstitutional. They said that diversity makes communities stronger and is a cornerstone of the United States, exemplified by the motto “E Pluribus Unum”.
  9. Ordinary mothers and fathers with no direct stake in the issue came forward, some with their kids, and said they felt no need for the ordinance, as they were responsible parents and did not feel threatened by transgender men and women.
  • A woman came forward to speak against the ordinance, saying that she had always felt safe in Rockwall until that very evening, when people followed her across the parking lot after one of them said: “This looks like one of them”. She was in tears, she said she felt ugly and insecure, her gender questioned for the first time in her life. If we needed any additional proof of the corrosive effect of the ordinance on the general population, there it was.

 

Unfortunately, I think that what actually convinced the council men (no women) in our 70% Republican town was the argument that this is another intrusion of big government into the lives of the citizens. It is possible that they were moved by the display of very real emotion, but in the end they hid behind the small government thing, which in my view is a double-edged sword. Without intrusion from “big government” our black friends would still be drinking from separate water fountains and attending separate but not equal schools. That is definitely one to watch.

Disclaimer: Marie-Anne wrote this blog. Although she is much given to thinking she is always right, she makes occasional mistakes and even commits errors of judgment (sigh… ask her kids). She is solely responsible for content.

 

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2 Comments on "Rockwall’s “bathroom” ordinance defeated."

  • Your account and analysis of the city council meeting is factual and informative. Rockwall said no to discrimination.

  • Richard Wincorn says

    Thank you for documenting this meeting

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