In so many ways, the voter-suppression fight has brought out the best in the Democratic party. One of the less prominent emphases of the pro-voter case is also among the most noble. Opponents of the Voter Identification law have pointed out that it may leave persons who have undergone sex change operations unable to produce a valid ID. By pointing to a specific instance of discrimination, North Carolina progressives fired the opening shot in the battle to affirm the rights of transgendered citizens. It is a cause as profound as the obstacles trans people face.
Like African-Americans under segregation, trans people are routinely denied access to public accommodations. In most states, including our own, it is legal to dismiss trans-people from their jobs simply for their gender identities. Even on government documents, it isn’t unheard of for a trans person to be referred not as “he” or “she” but as “it.” Taken together with restrictions on their movement and subjection to violence, this dehumanizing language completes a portrait that bears a sickening resemblance to Jim Crow.
Just as Democrats electorally sacrificed the Deep South to end one regime of segregation, they should take every risk to dismantle this one. The party’s temporary marginalization in North Carolina may work to the advantage of the cause, as activists focus on controverting widespread hatred. In the meantime, liberals should remember this: The brutal path of progress shows that dignity matters most.