Port: The rule of law matters more than bathroom ‘rights’

MINOT -- On a recent Sunday morning, I drove to my local CVS pharmacy, parked my truck, and then got out and walked smack into locked automatic doors.

Rob Port

MINOT -- On a recent Sunday morning, I drove to my local CVS pharmacy, parked my truck, and then got out and walked smack into locked automatic doors.

The store was closed, you see. Because in North Dakota stores like the one I was visiting aren’t allowed to open before noon on Sundays.

After a rueful nod to the clerks I could see inside the store chuckling at me, I went back to my truck to nurse my wounded pride and sit out the 15 minute wait until the legal open time. While sitting there, I contemplated the rule of law and the absurd situation I found myself in.

Outside of the store, I and about a dozen or so other people were waiting in our cars for the doors to open. Inside the store were clerks and pharmacists waiting to begin their day’s work.

The only thing standing between us was an archaic state law, born of out-of-fashion religious beliefs, which prevents certain types of commerce from taking place before noon on the Christian sabbath.


Thanks to the “brunch bill” passed by the state Legislature last year you can now buy booze in restaurants before noon, but not some Tylenol at a pharmacy.

As absurd as that is, we all followed the law that Sunday morning, because that’s what civilized people do.

Now let’s apply this to an issue our nation seems to have lost its mind about in recent weeks. Namely, the use of public bathroom and locker room facilities by the transgendered.

I understand why trans citizens, who already feel marginalized and isolated in our society, want to use the facilities which correspond to the gender they see themselves as.

I also understand why some are afraid that trans-friendly policies for bathroom and locker rooms might be open to abuse by people with ill intent.

Neither of these are unreasonable positions.

What I do not understand is why President Barack Obama thinks he’s helping this situation by twisting Title IX, a part of the Education Amendments of 1972 aimed at ensuring equal access and opportunity for men and women at federally-backed institutions of education, into bathroom policy mandate.

In that CVS parking lot on Sunday morning, we citizens sat patiently in our cars obeying the law. We were annoyed, sure, but we obeyed the law because we know that it was created through a fair and democratic process.


This is a feature - indeed, part of the genius - of representative government. We have a process in place to create laws which we all must follow. And because we generally feel that we all have a say in this process, that we all have the same opportunity to influence and shape the policy which is made, we are willing to accept some laws we don’t necessarily like.

This is why democratic forms of government are so much more stable than monarchies or dictatorships where one person, or one small group of people, create law through edicts with little participation from the governed.

I want trans citizens to feel safe and accepted in our society. As frustrating as it can be, I think the best way to achieve that goal is to reform policies through the democratic process, starting at the local level.

Sadly, our extremist-in-chief would rather force reform down our throats. Even if you think the policy Obama is pushing is right and just, the process by which he is pushing it is anything but.

Too often we take the law, and how the law becomes law, for granted. Process matters. Short circuiting the process can be gratifying if it’s your agenda being advanced, but it also creates strife and anger and a diminished level of respect for the authority of government. 

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