Greensboro

HB-2 under increased scrutiny

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daveynin/Flickr

Maggie Young
    News Editor

In a unique turn of events, North Carolina’s Legislature introduced, discussed and passed a bill two weeks ago, on March 23, in a matter of hours.

House Bill 2 (HB2), also known as “The Bathroom Bill,” was passed by all republicans present (three were excused absent) and 11 democrats during the special House session; when the bill reached the senate, it passed 32-0, with all senate democrats walking out in protest.

The bill was signed by Governor Pat McCrory in under 12 hours of its introduction.

HB2 prohibits local governments from adding legal protections for LGBT members of their community and requires transgender people to use bathrooms coinciding with their biological sex — even if that gender is not the one they identify with.

The bill was able to avoid initial public discussion because of its rapid movement through the General Assembly; however, citizens, companies and lawmakers are now calling for the law to be repealed.

The backlash against the new law has been widespread, with many calling into question the discrimination that it perpetuates amongst the LGBT community.

“HB2 is the most sweeping anti-LGBT law in the nation,” said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC.

The Bill was in response to an ordinance that Charlotte’s City Council passed on March 23, with a 7-4 vote, that added protections to Charlotte’s LGBT community.

The ordinance Charlotte passed included such protections as prohibiting discrimination in public accommodation, transportation and businesses based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill also allowed transgender people to use the restrooms of their gender identity. Charlotte had made previous attempts in 2014 to sign a similar bill into law in the city, but it was shut down.

Charlotte City Councilmember Alvin Austin said before the vote that the world wants to see what kind of world-class city Charlotte is.

“[The] LGBT community is not going anywhere and not living in the shadows,” Austin said before voting in favor of the ordinance.

HB2, which was introduced and passed on the same day, March 23, effectively overturned the Charlotte ordinance and introduced a number of state-spanning laws that many across the state and the nation find troubling.

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, NC Equality and Lambda Legal is demanding a closer look at the law as it fits in with Title IX and the constitution.

The suit states, among others things, that HB2 violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which provides equal protection under the law; privacy under the Due Process Clause in the 14th Amendment, which allows an individual to avoid disclosing sensitive, personal information; the right to refuse unwanted medical treatment, because HB2 forces transgender people to undergo medical procedures that may not be accessible or desired, in order to access facilities that coincide with their gender identity; and Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in any education program that receives federal funding.

Arguments for the law have commonly been along the lines of misunderstandings of transgender people.

House Speaker Tim Moore spoke in the bill’s defense.“Obviously there is the security risk of a sexual predator, but there is the issue of privacy,” Moore said.

Many other supporters have latched onto the idea of a law such as Charlotte’s as opening the door for sexual predators in bathrooms.

Experts from 12 states have weighed in on the allegations in a report by mediamatters.org, all saying there is no statistical basis for the sexual predator myth.

What has garnered the most press is the portion regarding bathrooms. Other factors, however, are seen as being similarly troubling.

Governor McCrory sent out a press release that addressed certain aspects of the bill.

“Myths vs Facts: What New York Times, Huffington Post and other media outlets aren’t saying about common-sense privacy law,” is the title of the press release, and it addresses a number of common questions that have come up since the law has been put in place.

To the question, “Does this bill take away existing protections for individuals in North Carolina?” Gov. McCrory has responded, “no.”

“He’s completely wrong about that, unfortunately,” said Carrboro’s town attorney, Nick Herman about Gov. McCrory’s answer.

Herman noted that Carrboro has a policy that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation when it comes to contractors who are paid by the town. HB2 specifically states that local municipalities are not allowed to impose such requirements on their city contractors.

Of additional concern, the law prohibits individuals from filing state lawsuits against companies for discriminatory firing. “This Article does not create, and shall not be construed to create or support, a statutory or common law private right of action, and no person may bring any civil action based upon the public policy expressed herein,” reads Part III, Section 3.2 of the law.

Bill Rowe, the director of advocacy at the North Carolina Justice Center told Talking Points Memo that due to the differences in filing a lawsuit at the state versus federal level, many people will be discouraged from filing suits at all.

Court filing fees are higher at the federal level, the statute of limitations is shorter, and with fewer federal courts statewide, the time and money needed for travel often reduce the viability of a suit for someone who has just lost their job.

On Thursday, March 31, Gov. McCrory interviewed with Fox News, where Brian Kilmeade asked Gov. McCrory to elaborate on the causes of HB2 and his reaction to backlash.

Gov. McCrory told Kilmeade, “NC Legislature overturned a Charlotte City ordinance, which required all businesses to demand that if you’re a man and you want to use the women’s restroom, or shower, or locker room facility, they can.”

This was in response to the question of what exactly started HB2.

Gov. McCrory additionally stated that businesses can make their own decisions on how they handle their own bathrooms.

“It’s up to businesses to make that determination not government,” he said.

When asked about the New York travel ban enacted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, McCrory condemned the action.

“It’s demagoguery at it’s worst,” he said.

The governor questioned the legitimacy of Cuomo’s ban drawing on Cuba for comparison.

Gov. McCrory asked, “Is this the type of democracy we’re going to have, where you go to Cuba, then tell citizens not to come to North Carolina?”

He brought up that in Cuba, trans people have been jailed and tortured.

The New York Governor fired back at McCrory’s claims of hypocrisy.

“There’s a fundamental difference between legislative action that strips LGBT people of their rights and taking affirmative actions, steps, to help change long-standing practices in a foreign country,” Gov. Cuomo said.

Gov. McCrory continued to emphasize that the law was simply for privacy and common etiquette.

“It’s basic common sense,” Gov. McCrory said. “If you’re a man and you have the anatomy of a man, you shouldn’t use the women’s restroom, shower or locker room facilities.”

Roy Cooper, NC Attorney General, who is also running to replace Gov. McCrory in November, released a video condemning the law.

“That North Carolina is making discrimination part of the law is shameful,” Cooper said.

Multiple other businesses, companies and individuals have been outspokenly against HB2 including American Airlines, which says its second largest hub is in Charlotte, Bank of America, which is based in Charlotte, and the NBA.

While the outcry against HB2 has been loud and widespread, Gov. McCrory has not yet shown any indication that he will repeal the law.

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