LGBT

North Carolina Lawmakers Waste Taxpayer Money To Gut LGBT Protections

CREDIT: AP Photo/Gerry Broome

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R), Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R), and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R) in 2015.

On Wednesday, lawmakers in North Carolina are convening a special session for the sole purpose of considering anti-LGBT legislation. The session is a direct response to the passage of LGBT nondiscrimination protections in the city of Charlotte and will cost taxpayers $42,000 per day.

The bill (HB 2) covers a wide swath of policies that specifically require anti-LGBT discrimination or prevent the enforcement of protections against it:

  • All school restrooms and locker rooms that are not single-occupancy must be single-sex and students can only use the facility that matches the “biological sex” that is “stated on a person’s birth certificate.” Students requiring an accommodation must not be allowed in the sex-segregated facility that does not match their identity.
  • All public agency restrooms that are not single-occupancy must be single-sex and must be limited based upon an individual’s “biological sex” as “is stated on a person’s birth certificate.” Individuals requiring an accommodation must not be allowed in the sex-segregated facility that does not match their identity.
  • All local laws governing employee rights (minimum wages, overtime, benefits, etc.) are preempted and superseded by state laws.
  • All local laws governing nondiscrimination practices in employment are preempted and superseded by state laws.
  • Individuals cannot bring “any civil action” based upon the state’s employment nondiscrimination protections.
  • The state’s public accommodation protections are amended to assert that limiting bathrooms according to biological sex is not considered discrimination.
  • All local laws concerning nondiscrimination practices in public accommodations are preempted and superseded by state laws.
  • Individuals cannot bring “any civil action” based upon the state’s public accommodation nondiscrimination protections.

In short, all school and public bathrooms must discriminate against transgender people; discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity must be legal across the state and no local law can say otherwise; and even if the state’s Human Relations Commission finds that an individual was a victim of discrimination, the victim cannot then sue the employer or business that discriminated. Completely irrelevant to LGBT people, any city that wants to do better by their workforce would be limited to the policies set by the state.

Because the legislation defines sex according to birth certificate, there is a bit of room for some transgender people to continue accessing the facilities that match their identities. North Carolina allows for the sex on a birth certificate to be changed following confirmation of sex reassignment surgery. That leaves little option for the transgender people who don’t want or need such surgery, who can’t afford it, or who are simply not old enough to access it.

After Charlotte passed its LGBT protections ordinance last month, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) warned that the protections for the transgender community will “create major public safety issues by putting citizens in possible danger from deviant actions by individuals taking improper advantage of a bad policy.” He promised state action to overturn any such provision.

Rep. Jon Hardister (R) insisted that the special session was “the right thing to do” because “this is an issue that relates to public safety. I believe in local control, but there are some laws that need to be uniform across the state, especially when it comes to protecting our citizens.”

Though conservatives have praised the legislature’s response, it flies in the face of what North Carolina voters actually want. A poll this week found that only 25 percent of North Carolina voters actually support the General Assembly overriding Charlotte’s law.

In fact, there is bipartisan consensus that lawmakers should leave Charlotte’s ordinance alone. Across the state, 51 percent believe it should remain unchanged, including among Democrats (58-17), independents (48-21), and even Republicans (45-38). In fact, 64 percent of North Carolinians actually support statewide LGBT nondiscrimination protections.

Because three-fifths of lawmakers had to sign on to calling the special session — and both chambers are overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans — the bill could pass quite quickly on Wednesday. This would save taxpayers from paying an extra $42,000 for a second day of the session, but at the cost of legalizing discrimination against LGBT people and curbing the rights of all workers across the state.