April 15, 2017–I add my voice to the growing chorus of voices to welcome the State of North Carolina back into the fold of the other 49 States in the United States of America. The current mayor of Charlotte, NC, Jennifer Roberts, joined fifteen other mayors across North Carolina to call for an end to the travel bans to this State, according to The Charlotte Observer (4/15/2017). Ms. Roberts was the author of the original, local anti-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte that granted access to transgender men and women to the bathroom of their choice, and that banned discrimination against LGBT people in Charlotte. That local law prompted HB2, the obnoxious State law that overturned her anti-discrimination ordinance and institutionalized discrimination based on sexual orientation, statewide. HB2 has been overturned by North Carolina, following the lead of the new, Democratic governor, Roy Cooper. As part of the deal, the original Charlotte ordinance had already been repealed, some months ago. About the replacement law, HB142, Governor Cooper was reported to have said that he would have liked it to have gone further, but that this compromise was all he could achieve, in terms of a compromise with NC Republicans in the State Legislature, who followed his lead and repealed HB2. North Carolina should be understood to be no pariah State any longer.
Unfortunately, the issue still generates controversy. I think controversy is good, so far as it goes, but it should not extend to social and economic damage to North Carolina, and Charlotte, NC, anymore. Let us look at the facts:
First, the travel bans. Just this past Wednesday, April 12th, California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, announced that his State would continue the travel ban on taxpayer-funded travel to NC despite the repeal of HB2 in North Carolina. He claimed the repeal and replacement law did not go far enough in protecting LGBT people in North Carolina from discrimination, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, VA: 4/13/2017). In addition, the City of Chicago, Illinois, and the State of Washington reaffirmed their travel bans to NC just this past week, despite the repeal of HB2, according to The Charlotte Observer (4/15/2017). Critics claim the new law is still discriminatory.
In contrast to these renewed bans on travel to North Carolina, the NCAA and ACC college sports leagues gave a “vote of confidence” to North Carolina after the repeal, according to The Charlotte Observer (4/15/2017). They had moved significant sporting events out of the State, previously, in protest of HB2. The NBA (National Basketball Association) is considering bringing its All-Star Game back to Charlotte at this time, also. It had pulled it out-of-state, previously, also in protest against HB2. I support the return of the NBA All-Star Game back to Charlotte at this time.
Next, we should take a look at the new replacement law, itself. The civil rights community, including in North Carolina, agrees that it does not go far enough. I would include the Mayor of Charlotte in those ranks, however, and she just called for people and government entities to drop their isolation and alienation of Charlotte and the State of North Carolina. Mayor Roberts faces re-election this year in Charlotte, also. I support her bid for re-election.
The problem with the new law, HB142, is that it leaves in place a ban on any new, nondiscrimination local ordinances across North Carolina until 2020, according to The Charlotte Observer(4/15/2017). Even so, the new, Democratic governor of NC, Roy Cooper, was reported to have said that the new deal would begin to reverse the economic damage already done to the State, and would prompt the return of sporting events and economic development back to North Carolina. This benefit would happen, he is reported to have said, despite the new law being, “not a perfect deal” and “not my preferred solution,” according to the New York Times (3/31/2017).
The state of the bathroom policy, after the repeal of HB2, is to remove the state from the bathrooms, once again. Only the State Legislature of North Carolina may now regulate any such rules for and in the State, under the replacement State law, and no regulations currently exist (The Charlotte Observer, 4/15/2017). That means police officers will not need to be posted outside bathrooms to enforce hoped-for equality inside the bathrooms for transgender people. Instead, there will be no police in the bathrooms. The freedom that comes with no police in bathrooms will continue, but the dilemma for transgender people using this bathroom or that bathroom will remain unsolved, I think. The issue is left with our culture, changing or otherwise, and with our civil society—not our government. This is where the issue belongs, in my opinion, and where people should focus their energy to create progress for transgender people, also, in my opinion. We need to keep police, on-the-clock and on-duty, out of our bathrooms, I think, although I wish no harm to our officers, either.
One less noticed provision that has been repealed from HB2 is the clause that restricted access to State Courts in North Carolina for any anti-discrimination, civil rights (or human rights) lawsuits, stemming from any acts of discrimination in the State, regardless of any local ordinances. This provision of HB2 fell without comment by civil rights advocates or anyone else, according to the New York Times (3/31/2017). I considered that quite a significant, discriminatory aspect of HB2, however, and I am surprised no one commented on it in the press, positively or negatively, and in fact, that the passing of the restriction from State Courts went unnoticed, also, by the press. Barring any comment or criticism about this provision, or about it being continued in the new law, which I understand it has not been, that provision fell, I believe.
Therefore, although North Carolina is not leading the way against discrimination, not by any means, still, the State has restored standard, state-level access to justice to fight discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, on par with other states in the United States of America.
What’s more, on Friday, the Republican administration of President Donald J. Trump dropped a federal lawsuit against North Carolina, one that had been filed by former President Barack Obama, on the basis that the State had been discriminating, under HB2. President Trump dropped the case in response to North Carolina’s repeal of House Bill 2.
Although more progress needs to be made, in North Carolina and elsewhere, I think North Carolina is no longer a pariah State in the United States of America, not on this basis. People should drop their travel bans and isolation of the State, and return to North Carolina.