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Monday, March 28, 2016

Wednesday in North Carolina

It has been an interesting week in North Carolina.  Last Wednesday, the ultra-conservative Republican super majority in the NC General Assembly called itself into a special “emergency” session to overturn an ordinance passed by the City of Charlotte on February 22.  Charlotte (like many other cities) has long had a non-discrimination ordinance (section 12-58 of the Charlotte City Code), which prohibited discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin.”  The new ordinance simply added “sex, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, [and] gender expression” to the existing list of protected categories.  Additionally, the new ordinance deleted section 12-59 of the Charlotte City Code which prohibited sex discrimination in public accommodations but also provided as follows: 

    (b) This section shall not apply to the following:

        (1) Restrooms, shower rooms, bathhouses and similar facilities which are in their nature distinctly private.

        (2) YMCA, YWCA and similar types of dormitory lodging facilities.

        (3) A private club or other establishment not, in fact, open to the public.

This rather innocuous change in a long-standing provision of the Charlotte City Code became known as the “bathroom ordinance.”  So vile was the bathroom ordinance that it was necessary for the legislature to convene a special session to overturn it before it took effect on April 1. 

Governor Pat McCrory (R) (who served has a member of the Charlotte City Council and as mayor for a total of 20 years, all without questioning the legality of the then-LGBT free non-discrimination ordinance), declined to call the General Assembly into special session because he feared (no doubt based on inside knowledge) that the General Assembly, if summoned, would pass legislation that was far broader than the “bathroom ordinance.” 

The Republican legislature, not to be stymied, called itself into special session, which it scheduled for Wednesday, March 23, 2016.  Despite requests from members of the General Assembly and the media, the powers that be in the General Assembly refused to release a draft of the legislation that would be introduced on March 23 claiming that it was not yet complete.  When the legislature convened around 10:00 am, the bill (House Bill 2 or “HB 2”) was introduced and made public for the first time.  [The date stamp on the last page “(03/16)” makes fairly clear that the bill had been drafted at least in substantial part well in advance.]  HB 2 was 5 single spaced pages of fairly dense statutory language.  The first vote was held 5 minutes after it was introduced.  There was a 30 minute public comment period for those who were able to get to Raleigh to testify.  Then some limited debate.  Then two more votes, culminating in final passage by the House at about 3:30 pm.  The Senate took up the bill at about 4:45, had an initial vote and then another 30 minute public comment period.  After it became clear that the Republican leadership was not interested in anything the other side had to say (according to Senate Democrats) all of the 15 Democrats walked out in protest.  The chair called a final vote and HB 2 passed by a vote of 32-0.  This was roughly 7:00 pm.  Although Governor McCrory had 30 days to consider whether or not to sign HB 2 into law, he signed it at 9:57 pm that night. 

In just under 12 hours from introduction to gubernatorial signature, North Carolina enacted what many have called the most aggressively anti-LGBT legislation in the country. 

ALL local non-discrimination ordinances were banished.  All local governments in NC were prohibited from protecting any group not protected by state law.  In the place of inclusive local laws (passed by the duly elected representative of those local jurisdictions), the General Assembly created a statewide public accommodation law was passed which protects only race, national origin, color, religion, and BIOLOGICAL sex.  It also mandated that all public restrooms in NC (including in public schools and universities) must be single sex and that a person may only use the restroom designated for his or her BIOLOGICAL SEX, as listed on his or her birth certificate. 

Not content to stop there, HB 2 also contained a slew of EMPLOYMENT related provisions, despite the fact that Charlotte’s ordinance had nothing to do with employment.  More on those later. 

So, North Carolina – once the most progressive of southern states – is now, perhaps, the most regressive on LGBT rights. 

Perhaps it was fitting that this special session that culminated in HB 2 was on Wednesday of Christian Holy Week, the day on which Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus.  I cannot think of a bigger betrayal of the teachings of the Jesus I learned about in Sunday School than legalizing discrimination against a minority group.

Posted by Brian Clarke on March 28, 2016 at 10:06 PM in Culture, Current Affairs, Gender, Law and Politics | Permalink

Comments

"I cannot think of a bigger betrayal of the teachings of the Jesus I learned about in Sunday School than legalizing discrimination against a minority group."

Really? I do not think Jesus is mentioned as discussing discrimination law anywhere in the gospels, but perhaps we can take his hateful rants against the pharisees as an indication that he would be okay with some discrimination.

Posted by: Jr | Apr 6, 2016 7:31:39 AM

Kinda of overkill, huh?

Posted by: Joe | Mar 29, 2016 9:49:00 AM

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