ROBERTSON: Retailer is now ally in LGBT rights fight

May 7, 2016

DEBATE QHas Target made the right decision by allowing transgender customers and employees to choose what bathroom they want to use?


AQuick, tell me the last time you remember reading a story about an actual transgender person going into a bathroom opposite his or her birth-assigned gender to commit sexual assault.

Can’t think of one?

That’s because it has never happened. Not once.

Yet that’s the very premise of the public outcry over a new policy by Target allowing transgender employees and customers to use the bathroom with which they identify.

The company announced its policy in the wake of an ill-conceived North Carolina law that erased local protections for tens of thousands of LGBT people and ordered transgender people to use the restroom of their birth-assigned gender.

The response has been similar to what happened in Indiana following the passage of our disastrous Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Thousands have shown up to protest at the Statehouse. Major companies are backing away. Celebrities are drawing attention to the situation. The state’s reputation is, ironically, in the toilet.

All in the name of a public safety “threat” that’s been debunked time and again.

The inclusive move by Target has drawn predictable scrutiny from the folks who pushed for this law in North Carolina and who seem to believe that public restrooms invite grave danger absent genetic testing at the door.

Yes, there are people who go into bathrooms to commit crimes. They are prosecuted for those crimes because that’s how the system works.

But there has never been a single case of a transgender person going into the gendered bathroom he or she identifies with to assault someone.

Prediction: Target will survive and thrive.

I doubt it will affect the company’s bottom line and might even increase sales among those who value respect and inclusion.

But Target officials understand the real issue at risk here isn’t their bottom line; it’s the risk to transgender people across the nation who face a higher chance of bullying and discrimination because of their identity. As one transgender woman said recently, she fears being killed if she uses the men’s room and is barred from the women’s room.

North Carolina has become a laughingstock for many but a role model for those who seek to punish LGBT people for who they are. They see an opportunity to roll back protections for those most at risk of discrimination and persecution.

They want to undo laws that were put in place by duly elected public servants representing the will of their constituents.

Here in Indianapolis, we’ve had an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in place for more than a decade. No one has used it to enter a bathroom and commit a crime. The law has only enhanced our reputation for being an open, welcoming place to live, work and play.

We can’t allow scare tactics and misinformation to undermine progress in cities and states that have decided to protect transgender people. Target is now a powerful ally in that fight, and I commend company officials for their decision.•


Robertson is the executive director of Enterprise Republicans and runs her own consulting firm, Frontrunner Strategies. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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