Equality in North Carolina Goes South
In another state legislature case that may find its way to the Supreme Court at some point, North Carolina just passed a galling bill that legitimates discrimination against the LGBT community. House Bill 2 received overwhelming support by the North Carolina Legislature, and was quickly signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory. In a very limited sense, HB 2 does prohibit some class discrimination. But the classes that fall under its non-discriminatory language are brief. The bill bans discrimination by employers and businesses based on their race, color, country of origin, religion, age or “biological sex.” There are no protections in this legislation on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons.
Lest anyone give thought to taking local, community action to ensure protections for the LGBT community, HB 2 goes even further and mandates that no local governments in North Carolina may add other protected classes that would extend beyond the state list. This bill passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 83-25. The Senate’s vote was 32-0, as all Senate Democrats walked out of the Chamber prior to the vote.
The full title of HB 2 is “An Act to provide for single-sex multiple occupancy bathroom and changing facilities in schools and public agencies and to create statewide consistency in regulation of employment and public accommodations.” So the two-fold purpose of this bill is to make sure that everyone uses only those restrooms that coincide with their birth gender. In addition, this is to be enforced across the state of North Carolina, disallowing the prerogative of any local municipality from passing their own, more inclusive and extensive, protections.
The City Council of Charlotte previously passed an ordinance that provided legal protection to the LGBT community. It specified that transgender persons could use the public restroom of the gender with which they identify. This inspiring legislation in Charlotte has now been overruled by the North Carolina State Legislature.
Governor Pat McCrory vowed to overturn the Charlotte ordinance as soon as it was enacted. House Bill 2 has accomplished his goal. There is much fear running rampant about male predators invading women’s restrooms, ready to pounce on unsuspecting and vulnerable women and girls. This is a baseless argument, much like passing legislation to prevent non-existent voter fraud. Restroom attacks have not been a pattern of male predatory behavior, if the lack of such headlines can be taken as evidence.
It remains to be seen if HB 2 survives. While the North Carolina legislature may seem admirable to some, since it stood up to the liberal agenda by putting reasonable stop-gaps in place, the real threat of an “Indiana backlash” may come to pass. As you may recall, Mike Pence, the Governor of Indiana, passed an anti-LGBT law in March, 2015. This legislation was cloaked in the garb of “religious freedom,” and called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” It allowed any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a reasonable defense, if sued by someone who was refused service because they were gay or transgender.
Even though Governor Pence signed this bill quietly, and out of the media limelight, it created a momentous uproar from many voices in the public square. The CEO of Gen Con, the largest gaming convention in the country, threatened to move their venue out of Indianapolis. This would have resulted in a loss of $50 million in revenue for the city. The CEO of the tech leader Salesforce promised that his employees would stay away from the state. And in an interesting twist, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) threatened to move their 2017 convention out of state. Many others joined the chorus of critics of this legislation. Eventually, Governor Pence overturned this bill, amid numerous threats of economic loss to his state.
Recently, Georgia has taken similar steps toward LGBT discriminatory laws. After his state received threats of businesses moving, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed their anti-LGBT (aka “religious freedom”) legislation.
Now North Carolina has joined the ranks of states with very rank laws. The list is already growing of businesses threatening to keep their activities out of the Tar Heel State. These brave souls include the Mayor of San Francisco, PayPal, Salesforce, Biogen, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, American Airlines, Google, the NBA and the NCAA.
Comments from the CEOs and spokespersons from these entities are similar to those expressed by American Airlines spokeswoman Katy Cody: “We believe no individual should be discriminated against because of gender identity or sexual orientation. Laws that allow such discrimination go against our fundamental belief of equality and are bad for the economies of the state in which they are enacted.”
No face-to-face discussion or focus group will change the hardened minds of those opposed to equality. No sermon or Bible study will open the eyes and ears of those who are convinced that God condemns gays and transgender persons to eternal hell. There is too little appetite for reasonable discourse by those whose beliefs are cemented in prejudice, hatred and fear.
If those who harbor such unaccepting beliefs cannot be convinced that equality is a good thing, then hurting the wallets of those states that embrace these laws is the next best step. If it means losing the opportunity to host the Super Bowl, an NCAA basketball tournament, or having a corporation move its operations to a neighboring state, perhaps these misled and misinformed people will reconsider their errant ways.
Religious freedom in America means that we are able to worship anywhere we want, with whom we want, without fear of arrest or persecution. And this country provides such assurances to the faithful, regardless of what form that faith takes. Once we step into the public square, our religious freedom is balanced with the duty to serve all persons, whether we like them or not, and whether we agree with them or not. It is time to turn our heels on the Tar Heel State!