A Cuban restaurant in Washington, D.C., has been fined $7,000 for violating the city’s Human Rights Act (HRA). In June of 2018, an employee of Cuba Libre Rum Bar and Restaurant questioned a transgender patron – a man who believes he’s a woman – heading into the women’s restroom, asking to see a driver’s license. After a confrontation with the male attendant and the restaurant’s manager, and a threat to call the police, the customer left the restaurant.
Charlotte Clymer, the transgender-identified individual, works for the Human Rights Campaign, the “largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization.” After trying to show the city’s HRA to the restaurant manager, Clymer called the police and reported the restaurant. Clymer wrote of the incident, “I went to a place of anger that I do not visit often. Something had to be done. I’m not the kind of person who calls cops, but at that point, I didn’t know what else to do. In D.C., a city celebrated for its LGBTQ culture, inclusivity, and protections, it stunned me that a business could so openly discriminate against transgender people.”
The city’s Attorney General, Karl A. Racine, announced the settlement. In addition to paying the fine, Cuba Libre must create written policies for its employees to make sure they understand that gender identity and expression are protected categories; post clear bathroom signage allowing individuals to “use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity”; and make sworn statements to the Office of the Attorney General twice a year for the next two years about any further complaints.
Here are three things you need to know about incidents like this:
First, when “sexual orientation and gender identity” (SOGI) are added to non-discrimination laws, as many states and municipalities have, privacy and safety are threatened. These laws often include public accommodations, such as changing rooms, restrooms and locker rooms, places that have been usually segregated by sex. People using those facilities have a reasonable expectation that their privacy and safety will be safeguarded, and that they won’t be exposed to members of the opposite sex. SOGI laws tear down that safeguard.
Second, as non-discrimination laws grow and expand – at every level – so does government – at every level – which generally means individual autonomy and freedom shrink. The 1964 Civil Rights Act initially offered protections from discrimination in five areas: race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Washington D.C.’s HRA now prohibits discrimination in more than twenty different areas – including such things as “sexual orientation, gender identity or expression familial status [sic], family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation, [and] genetic information.” As the number of issues covered by non-discrimination laws grows, so does the power of federal, state and local human rights commissions to punish violators, as we’ve seen in numerous cases. In D.C., the Attorney General is pushing for a law giving him the power to bring lawsuits against those who violate the HRA.
Finally, SOGI laws create conflict as they elevate a person’s sexual identity and sexual behavior to the same status as religious freedom. When that conflict occurs, religious freedom often loses, or it must be defended at a great cost of time, energy and money. A Catholic hospital in California, for example, was sued for refusing a man’s request for breast augmentation surgery. Seton Medical Center eventually settled, paying the individual $200,000. In Oregon, a transgender-identified student – a woman who identifies and lives as male – sued George Fox University, a Quaker school, in order to live in a male dormitory.
Those struggling with gender confusion should be treated with respect and kindness. Many, like Clymer, tell about growing up with horrific mistreatment and neglect. As Christians, we can pray for such individuals, that God will intervene in their lives with grace, forgiveness and healing. At the same time, we can stand for the truth that there are two sexes, male and female, not a multitude of “genders.” And as concerned citizens, we can continue to fight against SOGI laws and their negative effects on privacy, safety and religious freedom.
For more on the negative effects of SOGI legislation: