The Fort Peck Tribal Council has passed a resolution in support of a bitterly contested North Carolina law governing use of public restrooms by transgendered people.
The council passed the resolution on Monday by a 9-1 vote. The dissenting vote was cast by Tony Shields, who said in an email that he probably would reluctantly sign off on the final resolution. He said he considered the resolution a moot point because the Fort Peck Tribes have no authority over schools.
The North Carolina law requires transgendered residents to use the public restroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate. Some businesses and entertainers have refused to enter the state because of the law, costing the state an estimated $500 million in business.
It was unclear what practical effect, if any, the Fort Peck resolution would have. The Fort Peck Reservation, with tribal headquarters in Poplar, is home to the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes.
Tribal Chairman Floyd Azure did not respond to email or phone messages on Tuesday. Stacey Summers, a member of the Tribal Council and chairman of the committee that introduced the resolution, did not respond to an email message.
News of the resolution seemed to surface first on the Facebook page of Louis Henry Montclair, a reporter at the Journal, an independent newspaper in Poplar. In a telephone interview, he said that he closely follows affairs of a number of tribes and had never heard of one that passed a similar resolution.
Montclair called the resolution “discriminatory” and expressed concerns that it could endanger federal funding. He said of council members, “The way they talked, I’m not sure they know what transgendered means.”
The vote authorized the Fort Peck Tribes to “pattern their position regarding transgender use of public bathrooms to mirror the position the state of North Carolina has taken which is to separate public use of bathrooms according to gender.”
A video of the meeting shows that the discussion lasted only about four minutes. Azure explained that the resolution was intended to show support for the North Carolina law, which he characterized this way: “If it’s a male that wants to go into a female bathroom, he’s allowed to do that.”
One council member can be heard saying, “I don’t care about anybody’s sexual preference. It doesn’t bother me.” But the member went on to say that use of public bathrooms should be protected.
Shields said that the resolution was first introduced on Friday by Azure at a meeting of the Veterans, Elders and Youth Committee.
“He then compelled another council member to make a motion in support of North Carolina’s stand against Obama,” Shields wrote. “Any chairman that behaves that way, does not know Roberts Rules of Order.”
The U.S. Justice Department and North Carolina have both filed suits over the law, with the federal government asking for a court finding that the state has violated federal law, and with the state asking for a finding that it has not.
Earlier this month, the departments of Justice and Education sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to the nation’s schools spelling out guidelines to protect the rights of transgendered students. Critics, including dozens of congressmen, have complained that the federal guidelines overstep the departments’ regulatory authority.
They also argue that the guidelines fail to take into account the discomfort and emotional strain that might be felt by non-transgendered students who have to share restrooms or locker rooms with students of the opposite biological sex.