I haven’t written much about Senate Bill 200, so-called “anti-discrimination” legislation, recently signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter. But I certainly took notice when libertarian Ross Kaminsky assailed it in his latest Human Events column:
In the quadrennial marathon to see who can be the nationâ€™s worst governor, Coloradoâ€™s Bill Ritter is in a full sprint. On Thursday, Ritter signed Senate Bill 200 which expands â€œanti-discriminationâ€ law to cover sexual orientation, meaning not only homosexuality or bisexuality, but also â€œtransgender status or another personâ€™s perception thereof.â€
The bill is so ripe for abuse and creates so much risk for private business that itâ€™s no surprise the ordinarily media-hungry Ritter signed the bill late in the afternoon (too late for most newspapers to cover the story) with no fanfare (although he frequently has bill-signing ceremonies and particularly for measures such as this which have received this much media attention). It isnâ€™t even mentioned on his Web site, whereas a look at the page shows that he routinely issues press releases on bills he signs into law.
It’s hard to disagree with the notion that this new law is bad public policy and represents government overstep and intrusion.
Social conservatives – or anyone with common sense – see how this poorly-written law’s catering to a very narrow group is also a threat to reasonable public order:
A major criticism of the bill by conservatives is that it appears to allow men who self-identify as â€œtransgenderâ€ a legal right to demand to be able to use womenâ€™s bathrooms, health club showers, bathhouses, and any other â€œpublic accommodationâ€….
In other words, not only is there no legal definition for transgender, but there isnâ€™t even a solid dictionary definition for a court to rely on. Instead, transgender status is a matter of self-identification, rendering such a claim to be nearly impossible to prove or disprove.
In a fascinating radio interview, Representative Joel Judd, the main sponsor of the bill in the Colorado House, refused to say that criticism is untrue, and basically said that courts will decide on a case-by-case basis whether, for example, a man who goes into the health clubâ€™s ladiesâ€™ locker room claiming that he â€œhas the mind of a womanâ€ has a legal right to do so or has a valid lawsuit against a health club that prevents him from doing so. The primary overall sponsor of the bill was State Senator Jennifer Veiga, the stateâ€™s only openly gay legislator. She refused to be interviewed for the radio show.
Judd said that the bill represents a â€œchoiceâ€ as to how society deals with transgender people. Strangely, he asked the radio show host â€œWhere do you think this individual is going to the bathroom today?â€ and, regarding transgender people, said the bill is just â€œtrying to accommodate this very odd occurrence. Those folks are walking around today and doing the best they can.â€
While it’s probable that instances of bathroom and locker room predation may be rare, supporters of the bill cannot credibly say the threat isn’t real. And they can’t even clearly state the problem here they are trying to solve. Meanwhile, Ross points to a more serious – and more overlooked – problem that Gov. Bill Ritter’s SB 200 creates:
As if it werenâ€™t a large enough invitation for lawsuits, the law prohibits anyone who owns or runs a public accommodation from publishing, distributing, or â€œdisplaying in any way, manner, or shape or by any means or methodâ€¦any communication, paper, book, pamphletâ€¦notice, or advertisement of any kindâ€¦that is intended or calculated to discriminate or actually discriminatesâ€¦.â€
On its face, this makes the law unconstitutional. Free speech still trumps political correctness, but apparently not in Bill Ritterâ€™s mind. It is not beyond the pale to imagine a radical gay-rights organization suing a company that advertises using the image of a typical American family, i.e. a man and woman, a kid or two, etc, claiming that the advertising discriminates against gays. It is not impossible to imagine an activist judge ruling that the radicals are right. This may land in the Supreme Court quickly, but not quickly enough to stop Colorado’s Ritter-caused tumble away from our reputation as a business-friendly state.
Also, check out Ben Hummel’s cartoon and accompanying explanation.
The media loved to tell us that Republicans lost control of state government in Colorado because they were too focused on “guns, God, and gays.” But from the liberal intelligentsia’s point of view, this problem only ever cuts one way. SB 200 is the clearest sign of the majority Democratic Party’s overreach in this area.