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Wednesday, 21 September 2016 14:46

N.C. leaders remain – indignantly – on wrong side of HB2

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When it comes to HB2, our state’s Republican leadership will eventually prove to be on the wrong side of history. Just give it some time.

Until then, however, the fallout from the so-called “bathroom bill” continues to reverberate around the nation and the state as hundreds of millions of dollars — perhaps billions — are sucked from the North Carolina economy. Our citizens and our communities are being forced to pay a steep price for this legislative intransigence at the same time we are beginning to work our way out of this stubborn recession.

The most recent fallout comes from the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference, both organizations cancelling plans for playoff games previously scheduled for North Carolina. Add to that the businesses who have looked elsewhere — remember PayPal’s plans for 400 jobs and a global operations center in Charlotte that went aground in April right after the law was passed — and the concerts and performances that have been yanked. 

But our conservative state leaders and the liberal Charlotte City Council are staring each other down like schoolyard kids afraid to admit who’s wrong.

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, announced on Sunday that they would rescind HB2 if the Charlotte City Council would rescind its ordinance passed back in February. A majority on the Charlotte City Council is refusing the offer.

Remember it was in February after Charlotte passed its ordinance banning businesses from discriminating against gay, lesbian or transgender customers — affording them the same protections currently in place against discrimination based on race, age, religion and gender — that the uproar started. The most controversial part of the ordinance allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of the sex they identified with rather than what was on their birth certificate. 

Legislative leaders quickly called a special session in March to pass HB2 and Gov. Pat McCrory (R) just as quickly signed it. The law prevents Charlotte — and the rest of the state’s municipalities and counties — from expanding anti-discrimination protections for gays, lesbians and transgender people. HB2 also bars transgender people from restrooms aligned with their gender identity and ordered public schools and universities to make sure that students use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.

The new offer from legislative leaders makes it apparent that they finally recognize the economic havoc they’ve wrought upon the state. They are looking for a way out but are too damn obstinate to just repeal HB2, which has been likened to an answer in search of a problem.

Look, the most emotional supporters of HB2 are those worried about creepy sexual deviants who may slip into bathrooms and harm our daughters. In the first place, when my daughters were of the age that something untoward could have happened in a public bathroom, either my wife or I accompanied them. And no one supporting HB2 has been able to document a single instance where allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their sexual identity has caused any problems.

It’s the classic straw man fallacy. In this case, our socially conservative state legislators used the Charlotte ordinance to whip up fears that if they did not pass HB2 that women and children were going to be in danger. It was a ridiculous, over-the-top reaction to the city council’s ordinance.

Emotions aside, the bigger issue here is about discrimination, which is real and should be against the law. Charlotte’s leaders — local leaders elected by the citizens of that city — chose to pass a law that in reality would have had very little effect. It was more symbolic. 

One day, protections for gays, lesbians and transgender people from sexual discrimination will be the law of the land. At that time, HB2 will show up in history books as a painful relic, a nasty symbol of the transformational struggle of a more enlightened society.

Unfortunately, we are not yet that society. The General Assembly, though, can take a giant step forward by rescinding HB2. 

(Scott McLeod can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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