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N. Carolina ‘compromise’ on HB2 enshrines LGBT discrimination

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It’s not a repeal, it’s a sellout. The NCAA must not be fooled.

ACC Championship - Clemson v North Carolina
The ACC held its football championship in Charlotte in 2015, but pulled the 2016 game because of HB2.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

North Carolina’s Democratic governor and Republican legislative leaders have reached what they call a compromise on the anti-LGBT HB2 and they want lawmakers to vote Thursday to approve it. It’s a sham of a repeal and will lock in discrimination against LGBT people through 2020. (Update: the bill passed and is on its way to the governor’s desk).

The bill does repeal HB2, which had a lot of nasty stuff in it, but at the same time a new bill prohibits “state agencies, boards, offices, departments and branches of government from regulation of access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers or changing facilities, except in accordance with an act of the General Assembly. The bill also prohibits local governments from enacting or amending ordinances regulating private employment practices or public accommodations until Dec. 1, 2020.”

In plain English, no local body could allow transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. They would have to follow state law, which is not specific. This will cause more stress to trans people. Local governments are also not allowed to pass LGBT rights laws, in a state that has no protections for LGBT people. This is discrimination pure and simple and makes LGBT people second-class citizens.

As the Charlotte Observer wrote in an editorial: “House Bill 142 literally does not do one thing to protect the LGBT community and locks in HB2’s most basic and offensive provision. It repeals HB2 in name only and will not satisfy any business or organization that is truly intolerant of an anti-gay environment and of a state that codifies discrimination.”

It’s telling that the prohibitions extend until December 2020, after the next two national elections and the next governor’s race. The compromise is designed to appease the NCAA, which is deciding where to hold championships through 2022. If this new bill, HB142, passes, the NCAA should laugh and say “nice try.”

This bill is awful and it’s a shame Gov. Roy Cooper signed off on it. “I support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise that will be introduced tomorrow,” Cooper said in a statement. “It’s not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation.” I see nothing positive about this bill and am not sure why Cooper supports it.

North Carolina has suffered an economic loss of from the fallout over HB2, but no business or tourist should be fooled by HB142. Want a sign it’s a bill bad for LGBT people? Pat McCrory, the governor who signed HB2, is for the new bill.

One major company, Levi Strauss, is already against the “compromise”:

One Twitter user had the proper response:

Let’s hope this new bill dies. If it doesn’t, the NCAA will have no choice but to take its championship business elsewhere.

After I wrote this, I received this email from Gabriel Rosenberg, a professor of gender, sexuality and feminist studies at Duke.

“Many activists working on the ground in North Carolina for HB2’s repeal see the compromise as a disgrace. Governor Cooper and the state Republican Party are horse-trading with the basic human rights of their constituents. All people have a right to access basic public accommodations. And all people also have a right to fair employment conditions and a right to petition local governments to safeguard those rights. The compromise requires that LGBTQ people lose access to fair employment conditions and that right of petition so that they can gain some access to basic public accommodations. Republican Party leaders describe this compromise as a “give and take.” And it is.

“The compromise takes basic rights from LGBTQ citizens and gives them access to accommodations that never should have been denied in the first place. So it’s a give and take just like when a bully steals your wallet but lets you keep bus fare home.”

“What’s clear is that the compromise is not about the safety, well-being, or basic human dignity of LGBTQ people; it’s about money. Governor Cooper gives the game away when he says that the compromise is “not perfect” but “begins to repair [North Carolina’s] reputation.” What this means is that the compromise is not satisfactory to LGBTQ people, but it may satisfy the multinational corporations boycotting the state because of HB2. This, in turn, reveals one of the dangers of using boycotts to safeguard basic human rights. The pivotal question becomes about optics and marketing—can the state “sell” this solution?—and not about the substantive and fair treatment of the state’s citizens. Marginalized people already face daunting challenges in obtaining basic protections. Making those protections dependent on the beneficence of multinational corporations only alienates marginalized communities further from the political process.”

Related: A great Slate column on why the new bill sells out LGBT people.