North Carolina’s legislative panic attack over Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance

North Carolina Senate Democrats at a press conference. Moments before, they left the Senate floor in protest of HB2; as a result, the bill passed 32–0.

It was a hurried day in the North Carolina General Assembly.

The state’s legislature passed a bill — and not without drama — known as HB2, which repealed Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance and went further in other, crucial areas.

According to the most controversial section of the bill, students would be forced into using the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates, even those with sexual dysphoria. The same standard applies to anyone who finds themselves at any facility within the UNC and community college systems, as well as any public agency like “political subdivisions of the State,” the judicial, executive, and legislative branches, boards, offices, and departments, to name some examples.

The bill now goes to Governor McCrory for his signature, who will sign it tonight. McCrory and his office have been vocal about the bathroom provisions of Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance, and, earlier today, his campaign — McCrory is running for reelection this year — attacked Roy Cooper, the Democratic nominee for governor of North Carolina, for supporting “forcing women and young girls to use the same restrooms and locker rooms as grown men”.

The national ramifications of North Carolina enacting such a law are hard to say, but HB2, because of the way it’s structured, could lead to passages of similar laws in other states. It’s sweeping, but it’s not too sweeping that its success in North Carolina would be extraordinarily difficult to replicate in more states. The legislation, for example, doesn’t prevent private businesses in the state from establishing their own friendly transgender policies, and the bill’s reach only goes as far as public entities under North Carolina’s state government. This makes it harder for businesses to provide pressure against HB2 and bills similar to it, because, as the argument would go, there’s nothing preventing them from enacting policies they think are best for their businesses. Additionally, the bill doesn’t have any punishments or enforcement mechanisms to support its bathroom and locker room provisions.

The lack of enforcement is notable. Supporters of HB2 say the bill is needed to prevent sexual predators from taking advantage of laws like Charlotte passed, but if the risk of sexual predators is such a serious concern, why are there no enforcement mechanisms in this bill? What are the punishments for breaking this law?

Moreover, while the general assembly was considering the bill, representatives and senators tried to add sexual orientation and gender identity anti-discrimination protections as amendments. These efforts were shot down. Senator Buck Newton, a supporter of the bill, argued that such protections are “very complicated and very difficult for society to wrap their minds around” as well as define.

But this concern for complications and difficult concepts apparently doesn’t matter when trying to ban certain actions involving those very same subjects. Transitioning is an incredibly difficult process and the issues faced by people with sexual dysphoria are as equally intricate. As such, thorough legislation is required for almost anything regarding the medical condition. A ban, even a ban that allows individual accommodations because that otherizes certain men and women, is wholly inadequate in balancing everyone’s interests, and a ban with any specific means of enforcement will only invite awkwardness and absurdity.

Which is why the bill doesn’t make any attempts in that regard. More than anything else, the absence of such a provision confesses the lack of understanding by the bill’s authors and supporters, and, as a consequence on their behalf, imposes a harder life for an incredibly high-risk population in North Carolina.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Lily Carollo’s story.