HB2 – North Carolina Surely is Better than This

HB2 rally at Governor's Mansion
Within the space of just over 48 hours last week, the NC General Assembly called a special session, introduced, “debated” (including a whole 30 minutes of public comment), and passed into law a reprehensible, discriminatory and disenfranchising piece of legislation. And despite any initial objections the Governor may have said he had, he quickly signed it into law around 10:00pm on Wednesday (March 23) evening.
     Despite the fact that transgender people, and particularly transgender women, experience alarmingly high rates of sexual violence just due to who they are, the proponents of this bill chose to ignore those safety concerns. Instead, they lifted up safety concerns that had little to do with the reality of what causes sexual violence in our society. I’ve already written extensively about this.  Different genders sharing the same spaces doesn’t cause sexual assault – power imbalances do. Such as the power imbalances between those who have money and those who don’t. Prohibiting local governments from requiring its contractors to pay a living wage, as HB 2 does, may not seem like it has anything to do with sexual violence, but it certainly can.
     And while the public comment period for HB2 did include two women expressing safety concerns about public bathrooms, it also included two transgender people sharing their experiences with violence, and their safety concerns. And the NCGA basically prioritized one group’s safety over another’s. At NCWU, we value and will fight for the safety of all of us. We know that oppressing and marginalizing any one group ultimately makes all of us less safe.
     In addition to overturning the recent Charlotte ordinance on the premise of concern over public bathrooms, HB2 also overturned the provisions that made it illegal for businesses to discriminate against potential customers because of their sexual orientation. And it went a step farther in making it illegal for other local governments to create such such protections. It also overturned Charlotte’s newly enacted provision making it illegal to fire someone solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity; and again made it illegal for any other NC town or city to create a similar ordinance. In addition to enshrining this anti-LGBT discrimination into law, HB2 also makes it easier for companies to discriminate on just about any basis, as the bill also takes away the right of those illegally fired on the basis of race, sex and/or religion to take action in state courts. This bill has little to do with safety, and everything to do with consolidating state power, and kowtowing to special interests and certain greedy corporations who want to enrich themselves at the taxpayers’ expense.
     HB2 also is a declaration that our state government believes it has a right to insert itself into the business of local government. We all can agree that many cities and towns across the state have unique characteristics that define them, and also unique conditions their local governments try to address. It’s why we have elected local representatives in state government, rather than merely a king and his court based solely in Raleigh. By issuing fiats as to how local governments will manage certain aspects of their governance – including non-discrimination ordinances, living wage proposals, or immigration polices – the state is taking away tools from cities and towns that those on the ground have determined are appropriate for optimal functioning of their city. It’s why we elect local officials in addition to state representatives.
     We understand the state has a duty to step in when it sees unconstitutional harm being done to state citizens by local governments. And we will suggest that no such harm was being done by any of the provisions and ordinances HB2 struck down.  There certainly may be differences in opinion in how to create conditions of safety and security for local citizens, as those provisions did, but the function of a democracy is to debate those differences of opinion, not suppress. HB2 is all about suppressing that debate, and further whittling away our say in how we are governed.
     This whole sham session was an election-year stunt kowtowing to the most extreme special interests in Raleigh. We believe North Carolina is better than this, and we want to see this law repealed.
#WeAreNotThis #ThisIsNotOver #ThisIsNotDemocracy
Tara Romano, President