In the two weeks since House Bill 2 was enacted, the response from my constituents has been overwhelmingly against the new law. Most are appalled that the North Carolina has eliminated non-discrimination protections for our LGBTQ citizens.
The constituents who have contacted me in support of the new law are mostly concerned about the provisions regarding gender and bathrooms. But if you think the new law is about bathrooms, please read on. There is so much more to understand about this far-reaching bill. The new law includes other damaging provisions that have the potential to impact every North Carolinian.
House Bill 2 enables discrimination of groups beyond LGBTQ by setting a new statewide standard for non-discrimination. Seriously.
It is now legal for businesses to post signs that say “No gays allowed.” Or “No Veterans.” Or “No Pregnant Women.” How? These groups are not specifically named in a section of the bill that sets out exactly whom is worthy of discrimination protections in public accommodations.
Cities and counties are now prohibited from writing non-discrimination ordinances that go beyond the new state law. Orange County’s long standing non-discrimination law that protected people based on sexual orientation, veteran status and family status is now invalid.
House Bill 2 also makes it harder to sue for discriminatory employment practices.
Fired for being Muslim? Or Christian? Or any other religion? Or for being female? Or male? You now lost your right to sue in our state courts. We join Mississippi as the only two states without state law provisions that protect private sector workers from employment discrimination.
Another section of the bill limits local governments’ ability to implement ordinances addressing wages, working hours, benefits, payment of earned wages, leave policies or minority set-asides. This is one of the most broad legislative intrusions into local governance in recent memory.
What about the bathrooms issue? There are fierce words and feelings swirling about this part of the law. I hear some common ground in the belief that bathrooms should be both private and safe. When someone says they don’t want their daughter being harassed in a bathroom, I get it. I also get it when a transgender person says that she doesn’t want to be harassed in the bathroom.
After the media attention dies down, the bathroom issue may end up being the least concerning part of HB2. There’s no enforcement provision in the law that will lead to anyone having their birth certificate checked for gender compliance at the door, and we have other statutes in place for dealing with anyone who uses the privacy of a bathroom to intimidate or endanger others. Non-gender conforming people will still choose to use the bathroom that feels the most socially comfortable to them. Unfortunately, they will do it knowing their state has deemed them a law-breaker for trying to do their business in peace.
It is becoming apparent that the collateral damage of the bill could be huge. We have heard about the big business objections on the news. Other municipalities and states are refusing to spend money on travel to North Carolina not just to object to our law, but to tell others “Hey! Come here instead. West Virginia is way more welcoming than North Carolina!” We risk losing over $4 Billion in Federal Title IX funding if our non-discrimination statutes are found to be in violation of Federal law. The state will almost certainly spend over $1 Million in taxpayer money defending the law in court. And there’s no way to tally the cost of our damaged reputation.
So, how did this happen? In a word, gerrymandering.
In a state that is about evenly divided between Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated voters, North Carolina’s gerrymandered legislative districts have created a legislature where one party is so powerful that they can write a bill behind closed doors, make it public at 10AM and have it become law by 10PM. That law can make discrimination legal without most legislators ever having talked to a single constituent about what’s actually in the bill.
What a horrible way to treat our own people. What a horrible way to govern.
I will not sit back. I have already joined with a handful of other State Representatives to draft a bill to repeal HB2. Unfortunately, the current legislative leadership is doubling down in their support of the new law.
What will it really take to repeal HB2? Public pressure and votes. In the face of gerrymandered elections, we need massive mobilization. And that effort needs a broad base, because this is about so much more than bathrooms.
Graig Meyer is the State Representative for House District 50, covering portions of Orange and Durham Counties. He can be contacted at email@example.com.