Bathroom rights: NC shakeup

In response to commercial and religious pushback, North Carolina has repealed its infamously offensive “bathroom bill”, signalling a large step forward for the transgender community

by Zack Johnson

On Feb 26, 2016, the City Council of Charlotte, NC passed Ordinance 7056, a non-discrimination order banning the the discrimination of citizens based upon sexual orientation and gender identity within publicly owned spaces, public contracting firms and vehicle services, such as taxis or Ubers. Previously introduced the previous year, the ordinance was struck down in 2015 as it made no reference of protection for transgender citizens. The ordinance passed 7-4 with widespread support throughout the state, and was to become law on April 1, 2016.

For reasons unbeknownst to those of us with even slight interest in the wellbeing of our fellow citizens, the North Carolina General Assembly — the state Senate and House of Representatives — entered into a special session exactly one month after the passage of Ordinance 7056 to deliberate over the content of the bill. After only three hours of conference, the North Carolina House of Representatives released House Bill 2, otherwise known as the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act. The bill directly combatted much of Ordinance 7056, bluntly requiring that all public and governmental facilities segregate multiple-occupancy bathrooms by biological sex — more specifically, the sex listed on one’s birth certificate — rather than by the gender identity with which citizens identify. In North Carolina, one can legally change the biological sex listed on their birth certificate only once they have completed gender confirmation surgery; therefore, for many within the transgender community, it was a direct attack upon not only their human rights, but the entirety of the human existence. Furthermore, the bill nullified previous ordinances outlawing wage, employment and workplace discrimination within the state. Specifically, it removed all protections for the LGBT+ community with respect to the aforementioned non-discrimination rights.

By a depressingly large margin of 82-26, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed House Bill 2 on March 23, 2016. Supported predominantly by House Republicans, 11 House Democrats nonetheless voted in support of the bill. In the Senate, the bill passed 32-0, with all 11 Senate Democrats fleeing the building in protest and refusing to vote upon the legislation. Shortly thereafter, then-governor Pat McCrory — imagine here the dad from “Jimmy Neutron” but with a slightly worse haircut — signed the bill into law.

The backlash to House Bill 2 was both immediate and sweeping. Throughout the nation, countless commercial, religious and governmental agencies released statements condemning the state legislature and demanding the law be repealed. Companies throughout the nation — including Paypal, Lionsgate, Westin, and Deutsche Bank, among a list of others — halted business expansion throughout the state. The Presbyterian Church of the United States, National Alliance of Baptists, North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and four bishops of the state’s Episcopal Church all released statements condemning the state legislature and governor for the bill. The NBA, NCAA and NFL each individually spoke out against the bill, demanding the state reverse the bill or forfeit sanctioned sporting events within the state. Alongside condemnation from eight of the largest domestic newspapers, internationally the entire European Union issued a stark criticism toward the state for their incredibly offensive bathroom bill.

Conservative estimates cite a potential $3.76 billion economic loss within North Carolina over the next decade due to House Bill 2. Alongside this projected economic loss, thousands of jobs would be lost due to businesses moving their manufacturing elsewhere.

Then-governor McCrory — the reiteration of “then-governor” relevant here as he rightfully lost his reelection bid due to his terrible bill — was sued by the United States Department of Justice on May 9, 2016. It would take nearly six months of legal battle before the state legislature, under the guidance of a new governor, would repeal House Bill 2. Though the entire bill was not repealed, the part specially pertaining to the bathroom mandate was repealed completely.

It still remains a mystery to me the true purpose of House Bill 2. Perhaps North Carolinian lawmakers were tired of their state being famous only for their robust peanut and sweet potato exports and instead wished to thrust themselves into the market for horrendously offensive, personally obstructive and otherwise unneeded legislation. That is the only explanation I could fathom, though even then it is difficult to speculate the true motivations of such a comprehensive assembly of bigoted idiots. It seems the North Carolina General Assembly simply wanted to release legislation that bluntly reconfirmed a concept the nation is already plenty aware: the perpetuation of horrendous and unfair treatment toward the transgender community remains regrettably strong in America. The repealing of House Bill 2 symbolizes a large step forward for the transgender community in America, however, the simple fact that the bill existed in the first place is problematic enough.

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