North Carolina and Mississippi Rationalize Discrimination

By, Ariell Branson

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Race, religion, national origin, and sexual identity -- one of these things is not like the other. Contrary to popular belief, sexual identity is not a protected class. While there are acts protecting citizens based on the aforementioned, sex, age, and even familial status, there is no such act to protect people who fall under the queer umbrella. What does this mean for the LGBTQIA+ community? Not having constitutional protection means that laws that impact our community are judged at the lowest level of scrutiny. This makes legislation like what is underway in North Carolina and Mississippi permissible so long as it has a rational basis.

The North Carolina bill does two things: it requires public schools to segregate bathrooms based on biological sex and it prohibits cities and counties from creating any new anti-discrimination laws. This is dangerous for a plethora of reasons. First and foremost, it puts transgender children in the line of fire when it comes to harassment and sexual assault. But more than that, it makes it so nowhere in North Carolina can take measures to protect LGBTQIA+ people without being in violation of state law.

North Carolina is alone in this, though. Mississippi is currently in the process of passing legislation that allows individuals and institutions with religious objections to deny services to gay couples. Governor Phil Bryant has asserted that, “The legislation is designed in the most targeted manner possible to prevent government interference in the lives of the people from which all power to the state is derived.” What is really does is allow shelters that provide housing for the homeless to discriminate against homosexual or transgender people, businesses to not serve gay couples, and medical professionals to deny them service.

Since these pieces of legislation have “rational basis” it is going to be extremely difficult to overturn them without a Supreme Court trial. The good news? A Supreme Court battle could finally push sexual identity into the realm of protected classes, an action that would change the lives of queer and transgender people nationwide. Constitutional protection shouldn’t work like a game on Sesame Street; it’s time to disallow discrimination based on sexual identity.