The Pulse

No going back on LGBTQ equality: Why Charlotte should not repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance

By: - September 17, 2016 8:31 am

HB2There’s one thing you can say about Gov. Pat McCrory and the conservative lawmakers now trying to clean up their HB2 mess by attempting once again to force the city of Charlotte to repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance: they don’t give up easily. Faced with national and international condemnation and derision for their horrific homophobia, they’re still trying to pull a cynical, political win out of the fire.

Earth to the Governor and friends: There is no going back to the status quo ante. The fight for LGBTQ rights is here to stay; it is not going back in a box. All the conservative proposal to condition a repeal of HB2 on the repeal of the Charlotte ordinance would do is reaffirm the current unacceptable state of affairs in which LGBTQ people in Charlotte and the rest of our state have no legal protection from discrimination in hiring and public accommodations and transgender people are still treated as mentally ill predators. That’s no “compromise.”

Such a situation would amount to complete victory for McCrory and the forces of reaction who could claim that they had accomplished their absurd “mission” of “keeping men out of women’s restrooms.”

As Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC noted in a joint statement late yesterday:

This is the same cheap trick the North Carolina General Assembly has attempted all along, asking Charlotte to repeal crucial protections for the LGBTQ community and trust they will hold up their end of the bargain on a full repeal of HB2,” said JoDee Winterhof, Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs. “This arrangement would create problems, not solve them. It would require Charlotte to drop the very protections for the LGBTQ community that businesses, the NCAA and other organizations have now made clear are need and are a priority.”

“We can’t afford more antics from Pat McCrory, Phil Berger, and Tim Moore. They are the ones who got us in this situation in the first place and are costing our state millions,” said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina. “Hundreds of other cities across the nation already had in place a similar ordinance to Charlotte’s. While important to the LGBT community, it was not unique. What is unique and dangerous is HB2. It’s HB2 that cost us the NCAA, ACC, and the NBA. It’s HB2 that’s causing us economic harm, and it’s HB2 that needs to be repealed. Enough games and blame – repeal HB2.”

Not only do more than 100 communities across the country have non-discrimination protections like Charlotte, so do 19 states and hundreds of Fortune 500 companies. Just this week, the NCAA and ACC have joined more than 200 major business leaders in calling for full repeal of HB2. Repealing Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance would leave North Carolina without an “inclusive atmosphere for all college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans,” which the NCAA called for this week.

It’s true that North Carolina is not the only state to currently allow discrimination against LGBTQ people. The Governor and his friends and supporters are right that we would not be alone if we went back to the situation prior to the Charlotte ordinance. Unfortunately for them, there’s been too much water under the bridge for that now.

As with so many other reactionary and bigoted stances in history, HB2 has actually energized and expedited the movement for progress. It’s understandable that the Guv, trailing in the polls, now wants to wave a wand and make everything that’s happened in the past six months go away, but it’s simply too late for that.

The only conceivable “compromise” on HB2 that makes any sense at all is the one suggested in this column a few months back — i.e. the notion that lawmakers could pair full repeal of HB2 with some kind of new law to toughen penalties for predatory behavior in bathrooms. As was noted at the time:

“While it’s already completely illegal, lawmakers could add a new state statute that makes absolutely clear that any person who gains access to a public restroom by disguising their gender in order to commit an assault or to engage in peeping or other unlawful behavior is guilty of a specific new offense. Call it ‘criminal bathroom entrance.’

This would provide the conservative supporters of HB2 who worry about such behavior the assurance and political cover they need and politically isolate the homophobes whose actual intention to discriminate against the LGBT population. What’s more, such a provision would have the added advantage that it would be 99.9% sure never to be needed since, as we know, such behavior is almost completely unheard of.”

Save for something along these lines, however, it’s much too late for compromise on this hateful and discriminatory law.

The bottom line: HB2 will be repealed and laws like Charlotte’s ordinance will become the norm in our state. It’s just a matter of time.

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Rob Schofield
Rob Schofield

Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors regular commentaries, and hosts a weekly radio show/podcast.