Donald Trump took up the pen yesterday and removed a provision set in place by Barack Obama which allowed students to choose the bathroom at school that best matches their gender identity. Trump put the regulation in the hands of the state, rather than Federal mandate.
It may come as a shock to anyone who has read my blog before, but I don’t have an issue with this from the perspective of political ideology. A true Republican believes that legal decisions such as this belong in the hands of the states, not the federal government. It makes sense that a man representing the Republican party would deregulate nationally and put the power in the hands of the state legislators. This seems to match his general tone of deregulation. Trump has made it clear that for every new regulation he puts into place, he intends to eliminate two existing ones.
Two issues jump out at me. The first is that Trump needs to remain consistent in his goal to state authority. He can’t go back and forth, saying that some issues are more important than others for federal jurisdiction. If you’re going to tell me it’s a state issue to determine gendered bathrooms, don’t turn around and nationally declare religious freedom to allow refusal to gay customers. While I may not agree with the notion of a small government, I can respect a consistent application of it, which isn’t something we’ve seen very much in the past decade of Conservative governing.
The other, more concerning idea is a lack of faith in the morality of the state legislators. If it is up to them to protect the rights of citizens, I don’t have a lot of hope that all 50 states will look out for all citizens equally or create protections for even the marginalized members of American society.
The track record isn’t good. Indiana and North Carolina have both put forward laws in the last two years that have demonstrated a willingness to restrict the rights of many, rather than protecting them. Not all Americans will receive equal rights in this system, which may work to even further divide and sectionalize the country which is already struggling to unify and bond.
As a result of the power being given to the states, advocacy styles will have to change. Petitioning and lobbying the White House will be far less effective (not that it was entirely effective before). Instead, we will have to mobilize to 50 states, in hopes of creating the uniformly accepting society one state at a time. If we want to ensure that all Americans are able to live with the rights and protections they deserve, we will have to be able to convince each state separately, making the task far more difficult, yet no less important.
With a Republican president in place, the activist community is going to have to adjust the mode of attack. Conceptually, there is nothing wrong with putting the power in the hands of the states, but it puts the onus on the public to ensure that the states regulate according to our notion of what is right, and to ensure that huge sections of the country don’t fall prey to states that legislate in contradiction to the values of the nation as a whole.