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HB-2 and Greensboro City Council

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The Carolinian Archives

Catie Byrne
Features Editor

After five grueling hours, 15 speakers and nine testimonials from Greensboro city council members, in an eight-to-one decision, on April 5, Greensboro’s City Council approved a resolution against House Bill 2.

A controversial section of HB2, which requires transgender people to use restrooms and locker rooms which correspond with the gender on their birth certificates, has exploded in the media, and subsequently ignited a passionate movement of opposition from the LGBT community, as well as a number of fervent defenders of the bill.

Written in response to the recent passage of HB2, the resolution stated, “The City of Greensboro City Council reaffirms its support for protecting and advancing the constitutional rights and equitable treatment of all residents.”

Throughout discussion of the bill, the tension in the air was thick — and city council members were well aware of this.

Before anyone spoke for or against the resolution against HB2, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, requested audience members be respectful of one another. “I do want to ask, I know this is a really hot-button issue, to please not interrupt each other.”

However, the tension in the room was also heavily present among the city council members, and before Vaughn could even finish her request for peace between both sides, she was cut off by councilwoman Sharon Hightower, who wanted to address her views regarding the resolution and HB2.

“I understand [dissenters of the resolution], I have a daughter, but I believe that I raised her to respect people, and I’m a Christian and the bible tells us to love our brother, and judge not, so that you will not be judged… And I’m going to support the resolution tonight, because it is the right thing to do.”

Snapping and clapping throughout Hightower’s remarks, supporters of the resolution were equally vocal in their disdain for the opposing side, and frequently booed and interrupted speakers against the resolution.

Among the most vocal, were members of the LGBT community or those in solidarity with the LGBT community, who attended the council meeting to support the resolution and convey their anger regarding the passing of HB2.

While not all community members did vocally oppose those against the resolution, a significant portion of LGBT attendants held up a sheet of paper which read “ALL of US or NONE of US #ShutdownHB2,” with a trans flag inserted into the background of a picture of the state of North Carolina, as a form of protest whenever HB2 supporters spoke.

A smaller portion of the opposing side also vocalized their anger at supporters of the resolution, yelling at them to “shut up” or “get over it,” whenever those supporting the resolution said something they did not agree with.

However, none seemed more angry than Republican, Greensboro City Councilman, Tony Wilkins, who argued with Vaughan against even discussing the bill at the very beginning of council meeting.

Wilkins’ frustration even went so far as to request to have a crying child removed from the room, when Republican, North Carolina Representative Tony Blust, was interrupted during his speech in dissent of the resolution, and in favor of HB2.

In his case against the resolution, Blust said, “I’d really rather not discuss this subject, it’s almost something I’m embarrassed that comes up in public speaking. The idea that the state has to regulate behavior in bathrooms, just seems elementary and common sense.”

Blust further appealed that he had a daughter, and that–regarding the controversial aspect of the bill, which criminalizes transgender people who use restrooms or locker rooms that do not correspond with the gender assigned to them at birth–his decision to vote for HB2 was to ensure her safety, and not discriminate against transgender people.

However, his argument was not well received by the many members of the LGBT community, who attended to support members of their communities who spoke before the council, in support of the resolution, and against HB2.

Speaker Anthony Mungo, a black, non-binary trans person, echoed sentiments expressed by speakers representing the Queer People of Color Collective, in favor of the resolution, who argued that as a trans person of color, they are disproportionately affected by violence in restrooms, more than any other demographic.

“I am a non-binary, queer person of color, and it [HB2] has a big affect on me, because, when it was talking about bathrooms, and about how trans and gender nonconforming people are predators, that really not only offended me, but also people in the room that I would call my second family; because it wasn’t right. And even though they’re trying to protect their kids or something, trans and gender nonconforming people of color, we are more likely to be victims of sexual assault in bathrooms, more likely than any other group in the LGBT community as a whole, so I really feel like the assumption that we’re predators is dehumanizing. It’s sick, it’s ignorant and it’s really homophobic and transphobic, because it turns around and paints North Carolina in a depiction that I know North Carolina isn’t,” said Mungo.

The topic of protecting children was central to both arguments, and was particularly highlighted by speaker Lindy Garnette, CEO of YWCA of Greensboro, an organization dedicated to protecting women and girls.

Of HB2, Garnette said, “Our mission [at YWCA] believes in freedom, dignity and justice for all, and that means all. We have a 114 year history in this city, of supporting the equality of women and girls, protecting women and girls, and we believe that this bill does not protect all women and girls, and that folks should focus on true predators. I’m much more interested in looking at statistically, that our women and girls are much more at risk from cisgender white men, than they are from any of the people targeted by this bill.”

Before the resolution went to vote, each council member gave a statement explaining why they held their views on the resolution and HB2.

Oh her stance, Councilwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter said, “As a democracy, we are obligated to protect minority rights, no matter how singular, or how alienated that group is from laws.”

All but Wilkins voted in favor of the resolution, and when the vote went through at 9:30 p.m., members and supporters of the LGBT community shuffled out of the city council meeting with satisfied sighs of relief, while dissenters left deflated and disgruntled.

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