I believe in second chances. A second chance can change a life. It’s why I support criminal justice reform, and a new immigration policy that gives men and women who came here illegally but have followed our laws a chance to come out of the shadows and raise their families in the open, in the land of the free.
This week, the North Carolina General Assembly turned its back on men and women trying to live their lives out in the open. They threw away their second chance on HB2 and elevated bigotry and hate over justice and equality. Like so many across this country, I am appalled.
HB2 bars any North Carolina town, city or state government from protecting an LGBT individual from discrimination. It prevents them from setting minimum wage levels, from setting work hour limits (such as in the case of child labor), and it prevents local governments from holding contractors to the same labor standards as the government. It stops a city in North Carolina from saying, “you can’t be fired solely on the basis of your sexual orientation or gender identity.” This goes beyond partisan politics. It goes beyond who can use what bathroom. It gnaws at the very core of our country.
The Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights - a bipartisan, independent, fact-finding federal agency established by the Civil Rights Act -argued that North Carolina’s HB2 law “perverts the meaning of religious liberty and perpetuates homophobia, transphobia, marginalizes the transgender and gay community and has no place in our society.”
I agree. Anyone who looks at the law can see that it singles out the entire LGBT community for discrimination and puts special emphasis on ostracizing transgender Americans. A law like that has no place in our society.
So we will not stand idly by. We will not rest until this onerous, discriminatory and shameful law comes off the books. We will stand together, just as we have before, and stand up for those Americans who live their lives in fear. We will stand up for all those who are understandably afraid; those who live in North Carolina or Mississippi or even in New York or California, and those who face discrimination for gender, gender identity, sexuality, religion, or race.
Together we will fight the powers that want to make bigotry and hate the law of the land.
So to those who feel that they are in danger in their schools, town halls, offices or even working in the highest branches of our Federal government, know this: I am standing with you. I vow to defend the American people from the spread of hate, injustice and oppression.
We will pursue any course available to us to condemn this law to the ash heap of history and prevent similar laws from cropping up in other states.
Because the America I know ultimately celebrates and cherishes its diversity; it doesn’t shrink from it or fear it. The America I know, over history, has extended the shield of the law to protect its citizens, not hinder and exclude them. That’s the America that turned Stonewall into a National Monument; that welcomed Sarah McBride to the national stage at one of our major party’s conventions; that promises, in an inscription above the marble columns of its highest court, that everyone is equal under the law.
America changes for the better, but not on its own. It took millions of Americans hundreds of years to build this beautiful country of fair laws and opportunity; Americans who fought, protested, agitated and inspired our country to weed out injustice and move closer to our highest ideals.
I hoped North Carolina would make the most of its second chance to join us in this fight. I hoped they would right this terrible and dangerous wrong. Since they have not, it’s up to us to show them the light and remind them what this country stands for. I hope I can count on you to join me. Please share this with your friends and family and help spread this message. I hope the General Assembly will hear it.