My state has made national headlines again. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly something I want to write home about.
Our legislative leaders have their collective head up their ass.
In February 2016 Charlotte, NC passed a nondiscrimination ordinance expanding LGBT protections. In a stunning example of leading the state of North Carolina while simultaneously playing catch up to multiple large cities in America (ones that already have a LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in place), Charlotte’s legal protections seem pretty straightforward. It was due to go into effect on April 1st.
The ordinance prevented businesses in the city from discriminating against gay, lesbian, or transgender customers, adding them to the list of citizens protected on the basis of race, age, religion, and gender. It applied to “places of public accommodation” (i.e. bars, restaurants, and stores) as well as taxis. The clause that got everyone’s panties in a twist was the bathroom provision. This would allow transgender residents to use either a men’s or women’s restroom, based on the gender with which they identify. (Harrison, Steve. “Charlotte City Council approves LGBT protections in 7-4 vote.“ The Charlotte Observer. 22 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.)
To recap: Charlotte passed a nondiscrimination ordinance similar to ones already being enforced in a number of cities. An ordinance that protects United States citizens from discrimination in their own country. Land of the free, home of the brave, and all that jazz. It sounded like a step in the right direction to me.
But the next thing I knew people were running around like their hair was on fire, raving about setting predators loose in the bathrooms with “our daughters and granddaughters.” North Carolina’s House speaker threw down the gauntlet with a vow to overturn the ordinance, and Governor Pat McCrory climbed on board promising his support.
The state legislature took it and ran.
On March 21, 2016 North Carolina legislative leaders announced they were calling a special legislative session that week in response to Charlotte’s “controversial” LGBT ordinance. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who oversees the Senate, and House Speaker Tim Moore issued a joint statement: “We aim to repeal this ordinance before it goes into effect to provide for the privacy and protection of the women and children of our state.” (Morrill, Jim. “NC Lawmakers heading for special session Wednesday to discuss special ordinance.” The News & Observer. 21 Mar. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.)
Side note: A special session costs about $42,000 a day…apparently someone thinks we’re swimming in money over here.
Which brings us to HB2, the law shoved through the General Assembly in its one-day session and signed by the governor that same night. (You can read the law here.) Forest and Moore’s concern extended far beyond Charlotte’s restrooms, though. HB2 did not merely eradicate the LGBT ordinance in Charlotte; it also nullified all local ordinances around the state intended to expand protection for the LGBT community.
North Carolina’s new law specifies statewide the classes of people protected against discrimination – race, religion, color, national origin, age, handicap, or biological sex as designated on a person’s birth certificate. Sexual orientation is not specifically listed as a protected class under state law, leaving gays and lesbians without legal safeguards.
People who are transgender who have not yet taken both surgical and legal steps to change the gender on their birth certificates are bound (lawfully speaking) to that sex. They have no legal right to use a bathroom accommodating the gender with which they identify, and HB2 has made it impossible for cities and counties to establish a different standard based on their local needs.
Some other notes about HB2:
- HB2 limits the rights of those who aren’t gay or transgender regarding claims of discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, biological sex, or handicap in state courts.
- Other states that are proposing similar measures blocking LGBT rights: Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
- Someone in North Carolina can be fired for being gay or transgender. HB2’s language indicates the state will not be creating a new class of protections and won’t allow local government to create the protected class itself.
While Charlotte’s ordinance might have been the first of its kind in North Carolina, three cities in South Carolina (Columbia, Charleston, and Myrtle Beach) have similar ordinances. They, along with more than 200 other cities around the country with comparable ordinances, have not reported problems with transgender bathroom use. (Gordon, Michael; Price, Mark S.; Peralta, Katie. “Understanding HB2: North Carolina’s newest law solidifies state’s role in defining discrimination.” The Charlotte Observer. 26 Mar. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.)
I hardly know where to begin.
In 2015, the United Health Foundation ranked North Carolina 31st in the nation. Our state faces a high obesity rate, high infant mortality rate, and a large disparity for health based on income level. The NEA shows that salaries for NC public school teachers declined by 17.4% over a ten-year period (2003-2004 to 2013-2014). The Annie E. Casey Foundation report released in 2015 ranked NC 35th for child well-being. The number of NC children living in poverty increased by 25% since 2008, and our state tied with Texas and Kentucky for the 11th highest child poverty rate in the country.
In short, we have a plethora of urgent issues requiring our attention. Are you seriously telling me North Carolina spent $42,000 making sure the lady in the next stall doesn’t have a penis under her dress?! Are you freaking KIDDING me?!
Let me count the ways this makes no sense.
- I am at greater risk of being attacked by one of the very manly men using their restroom than from the trans women in my own.
- The pedophiles that linger outside restrooms to follow my son pose a greater risk to him than a trans woman does to my daughter.
- A Google search for “transgender violence” brought up multiple articles, but they had names like Sexual Assault: The Numbers; Responding to Transgender Victims and Transgender Murder Victims: Why the Homicide Rate is So High and Shocking Facts about Transgender Suicide. Not one hit about transgenders attacking women or minors, so Mr. Forest and Mr. Moore can just settle down about who’s peeing next to me.
- The state government wasn’t satisfied allowing each community to make their own measured decisions about what their constituents wanted. They felt it appropriate to lock down LGBT protection for the entire state. What the hell do they think transgenders are planning? A coup?
I’m stunned. I can’t believe the state legislature slammed this through in a day, and I can’t believe the governor signed it that night amid a flurry of overbearing paternal condescension.
Tomorrow’s post will look at the fallout North Carolina’s experiencing from the passage of HB2.