A telling moment in Thursday’s HRO Committee of the Whole meeting happened during Public Comment.
A woman opposing expansion came up to speak, saying that she’d just come out of a bathroom where a “man in a dress” came in, and “felt very comfortable using the bathroom next to her.”
Then, the next speaker: the woman whom the previous speaker called a “man in a dress.”
The woman was transgender. And a 35-year military veteran. She talked of the discrimination she faces, multiple times a week, for who she is.
That exchange illustrates the polarity in
On one side, there are those who fervently believe that the proposed legislation represents a threat to their way of life.
To their churches, with the fervent preachers setting their congregations on the right, Bible-based course.
To their communities. To society as we know it.
On the other side? People who have said, and will continue to say, that we’re here and we’re being discriminated against.
They make their cases, with anecdotes, with feelings, with emotions.
For each of them, however, there is an email like this one Mayor Lenny Curry
“Is this the reason why voters voted for you? Do you not know that this is the Bible belt? To what end will you let the special interest go. [sic]
“Will you plead for all perversion? Is everything OK? Pardon me for being a fuddy-duddy. I grew up in a country where is [sic] was highly inappropriate to have sexual relations with your daughter, your grandfather and your horse; at least not at the same time, I think you could mix and match.
“Do you mean to tell me that you don’t see what is happening? Did you not read what happened in Houston concerning the mayor of that city, and how they tried to censor pastors who spoke up against similar legislation? CENSOR PASTORS!
“Too bad the people who voted for you didn’t see this about you before they pulled the lever. I can assure you if this legislation goes through, come next election, some if not many, will not forget.”
Curry gets scads of emails hitting similar themes. Other public officials do, too.
The emails and the letters point to something bigger than the HRO.
One of the most interesting moments during Thursday’s HRO public comment came from a young man, still in high school at a local Christian school. He made a curious claim: If the HRO were passed, and high school boys were allowed in girls’ locker rooms (never mind that that’s not what the HRO expansion is about), then his friends might take liberties.
It’s this kind of conflation that is the underbelly of the anti-HRO stance.
In the conservative movement, there’s a natural tension between “the passions of the base” and the rhetoric used in polite society. We see that in the HRO discussion.
On one hand, you have this Night of the Living Baseheads-style succession of kooks and crackpots, trotting out arguments that illustrate every logical fallacy you might have heard in high school speech class, and some new mutations that haven’t been named.
On the other, you have the smooth arguments of the educated class, folks who make six figures, to couch the language of lower white class prejudice into something that sounds vaguely small government, vaguely libertarian.
In the HRO debate, you see that play out. Consider the professional experts brought in to make the “No to HRO” case on Thursday. It was a travelling road show. All they needed was a gimmick table and a lackey standing there to sell autographed 8x10s.
It’s aided and abetted by many factors. Such as: If you’re going to make the case against extension of rights for the LGBT community, might as well bring in the pros. They’ve made their arguments before. They’ve road-tested their talking points. There’s none of the risk that comes with specific locality. The arguments are the same and all are imbued with the urgency of a fundraising appeal.
The politicians on the other side aren’t willing to call them out for what they are. They lend moral equivalency to those who fly in from God-knows-where to lend their special expertise, never once asking who these people even are, or why it is that they need to be a part of the “Jacksonville solution.”
And, yeah, the other side has its traveling lobbyists. This is what happens when a city, like Jacksonville, drags ass on keeping up with where society is. In the void left by effective local leadership, outsiders step in. Think how it’s going to be if the HRO is spiked and we’re back here again in a year, or God forbid, a decade.