Law & the Courts

This Is Not about Jim Crow

Attorney general Loretta Lynch (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Some of us care little about the debate over public bathrooms. We do, however, care about the ongoing destruction of federalism, individual choice, and good-faith debate in America.

One reliable way to quash dissent and force moral codes on others is to liken a cause to that of the 1960s civil-rights fight, because every liberal issue is situated somewhere on the great historical arc of “equality” and “justice.” If people stand against even one of these causes — which were once great, but are increasingly trivial today — they have, according to the cultural imperialists of the Obama administration, aligned themselves with the Ku Klux Klan.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced on Monday that the Department of Justice was filing a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the state of North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina for passing the “controversial law” (this is the go-to characterization of conservative bills that pass with healthy majorities) requiring transgender people to use public bathrooms matching their birth certificate. She had this to say: “​This is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation. We saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation. We saw it in fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education. And we saw it in the proliferation of state bans on same-sex unions intended to stifle any hope that gay and lesbian Americans might one day be afforded the right to marry.”

RELATED: The Obama Administration Provokes a Legal Crisis — the War against North Carolina

Likening a spat over biologically segregated male and female bathrooms to the genuinely violent, systematic, state-sponsored, and society-wide bigotry that took place in this country for a century is both intellectually and morally corrupt. It’s not all a continuum. Yet the Obama administration peddles these kinds of risible comparisons for the cause of self-aggrandizement all the time.

For starters, the scale of these events is in no sense comparable. The Jim Crow laws passed by states and localities to enforce racial segregation stripped millions of African Americans not only of their liberty, but of their dignity. The state punished them for their skin color, and kept them uneducated and poor. They could not escape their situation without more government interference.

RELATED: Turning American Law Upside Down for the Transgendered

The present situation is significantly different and less dire in every possible sense. It is the sort of social problem generally worked out among people in this country without unelected civil-rights commissions’ punishing business owners for thought crimes. Under North Carolina’s law, no coffee shop or big-box store — no private company — is stopped from having its own desired bathroom setup. I’m pretty sure most voters don’t comprehend this fact through the distorted coverage of this law in the news.

#share#North Carolina and other states have preemptively moved forward in creating these kinds of bills to head off the federal government’s redefining gender. But it’s too late. The fact is, at any point, the government can simply announce that a man can choose to be a woman and vice versa. This announcement would then compel everyone in the country to accept this reality. Yet there is currently no federal definition of what transgender is, other than self-identification, which can mean anything. Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, says: “Transgender men are men. . . . Transgender women are women.” So sayeth Gupta, so say us all — or else. And now, 323 million people must adhere to the Obama administration’s relativistic notions of nature and gender.

The suit is symbolic of the federal government’s eight-year crusade to decimate any semblance of federalism.

In a broader sense, the suit is symbolic of the federal government’s eight-year crusade to decimate any semblance of federalism and implement progressive morality. The administration ignores state laws that conflict with federal policy when it approves of the law, and it sues states when it does not. States that pass law-enforcement bills that President Obama finds unsatisfactory will see the full force of the Justice Department. Those states with drug-legalization laws and immigration laws he does like have nothing to worry about, even if the laws conflict with federal law. Whether or not one agrees with these moves in theory — and I am liberal on drug legalization and immigration — allowing Washington, D.C., to selectively enforce law conflicts with the kind of republicanism that allows us to be diverse and deal with unique problems locally.

Finally, it takes a special kind of audacity for someone working for President Obama — who was a pretend opponent of same-sex marriage for years — to accuse someone who stood against same-sex couples’ “right to marry” of being a modern-day George Wallace. Not to mention the fact that Lynch was first appointed by President Bill Clinton, the man who not only signed the Defense of Marriage Act, but admired and learned his politics from real-life segregationists. Such an indictment just adds a level of absurdity to these scurrilous attacks on people who are making good-faith arguments.

David Harsanyi is a senior editor of the Federalist and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun, From the Revolution to Today

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