Natalie Wilson also contributed to this column.
The N.C. General Assembly met in a special session on Wednesday, March 23 in response to Charlotte’s so-called “bathroom ordinance,” which allowed transgender individuals to use public restrooms based on their gender identity or presentation.
Within just hours, Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2, a broad, state-wide legislation which bans local city and county governments from having their own antidiscrimination ordinances or regulating wage levels and payment, hours of labor, benefits, leave and more.
The law’s new rhetoric also removed protection under the law from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, replacing these with “biological sex,” a new category meant to exclude transgender people.
Under this new law, companies can single out candidates and employees with LGBT identities and refuse to hire, refuse to promote, demote and even fire them. They can also refuse to serve them as customers.
Additionally, North Carolina joined Mississippi in being the only states where one cannot sue in response to discrimination: “no person may bring any civil action” against the state in any related case.
Bills like HB2 utilize “bathroom panic,” a fear of sexual predators who might claim to be “transgender” in order to go into women’s restrooms, to justify the ordinance.
However, the fear that the bill harnesses is statistically unfounded. Over 200 cities have already passed legislation allowing people to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender with which they identity without a single harassment or assault issue reported in any of them.
In fact, more U.S. congressman have been arrested for misconduct inside a bathroom — three to be precise.
And, in actuality, transgender people are more likely to be assaulted in a bathroom, especially if it is not one that aligns with their presentation.
As a result of the new bill, transgender men born biologically female are required to use a women’s public restroom even if their presentation is extremely masculine.
This legislation is not only offensive and demonstrative of a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender — it’s dangerous.
Furthermore, this bill does not even democratically represent the views of the state’s constituents. Not allowing cities to pass bills for themselves is overstepping the state’s power.
In a 1996 Supreme Court case, Romer v. Evans, a Colorado law was struck down, because it violated the “equal protection” clause of the constitution by banning local governments from protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination. HB2 was carefully worded to avoid facing the same fate.
Colorado’s law explicitly singled out gays and lesbians by name, whereas House Bill 2 just omits them from a list of protected classes, so the court may rule differently here.
Universities such as Elon, Davidson and Wake Forest have released statements condemning the bill, and big companies like IBM, Apple, American Airlines and more have voiced their opposition.
The NBA has threatened to move the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, mayors from multiple cities across the country have banned publicly-funded city employee travel to North Carolina and the NCAA even suggested preventing the more than 20 NCAA championship events in the next two-plus years from being hosted in the state.
While companies and organizations like these may have a louder voice to state legislators, demonstrating the widespread opposition to the bill is also extremely important.
And sure enough, Wake Forest’s students have already been present at Winston-Salem City Council meetings protesting the bill and are continuing to take an active stance against it.
North Carolina — and the U.S. as a whole — is better than this, and legislators need to know it.