Commentary

National LGBT policy expert authors scathing takedown of Berger HB2 memo

Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

Two weeks after reneging on a deal to fully repeal HB2 and being made to look foolish by Roy Cooper, who rightfully called out the attempted double-cross by Republican legislative leaders, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger issued a lengthy and downright bizarre memo last Friday in an attempt to deflect some of then national derision that continues to accumulate at his doorstep. The bottom line: According to Berger  (and whoever it was on his staff who actually wrote the memo), HB2 is still about keeping men out of women’s restrooms.

Happily, Zack Ford, a writer and LGBT policy expert at the Center for American Progress, has taken the time to dissect Berger’s blather and author a thorough and devastating critique. Here’s the opening to Ford’s post:

Last month, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina reneged on their promise to repeal HB2, a sweeping anti-LGBT law they forced through in a single day last March. In the immediate aftermath of the December debacle, they blamed everybody but themselves for not following through on repealing a law that has generated a massive economic backlash for the state. Since then, Senate leader Phil Berger (R) has constructed an entirely new version of reality to explain what happened.

Berger was largely responsible for introducing a “repeal” bill that didn’t actually fully repeal HB2, then failing to rally enough fellow Republicans to pass a clean bill after destroying any remaining trust with Democratic lawmakers. But the way he sees it, it’s entirely the Democrats’ fault, and of course, he expresses no awareness of the LGBT protections that are on the line or his responsibility for embracing discrimination.

On Friday, December 30, Berger published a rather long post called “Behind the Scenes: How Roy Cooper Blocked the Repeal of HB2,” explaining his perception of events. Here’s a sampling of Berger’s many claims that in no way jibe with reality.

1. Charlotte’s LGBT protections were “radical” and “new.”

According to Berger, when Charlotte passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression last year, it was “radical” and “new.” Though the protections were technically new for the city, they weren’t novel?—?and hardly radical.

Nineteen states and dozens of other cities have the exact same protections—and some have had them for decades.

2. Charlotte’s ordinance allows “men and women to use whichever locker room, changing facility, and bathroom they felt like using, without regard to their gender.”

This claim of Berger’s is untrue and is designed to erase the validity of transgender identities. Charlotte’s ordinance added “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the city’s nondiscrimination code, but it didn’t eliminate gendered facilities. Not discriminating on the basis of these categories simply means respecting that transgender people are the gender that they identify as.

Charlotte’s preexisting nondiscrimination protections had a provision stating that protections on the basis of sex did not apply to restrooms, the YMCA/YWCA, or other private clubs. It’s true that this provision was eliminated when the LGBT protections were added, but that didn’t constitute “banning sex-specific bathrooms and changing facilities,” despite the willingness of Berger and others to read that into the change.

Just as there is no choice in being transgender, there is no choice in which facility to use. Under Charlotte’s ordinance (and all other transgender protections elsewhere), men and women?—?including trans men and trans women?—?are still expected to use men’s and women’s facilities in accordance with their gender. Berger’s description is thus wrong on multiple levels.

3. HB2 provided accommodations for transgender people.

Berger describes HB2 as requiring public buildings to “maintain separate women’s and men’s bathrooms and locker rooms” but allowing for accommodations for transgender people, “such as single-use bathrooms and changing rooms.”

Despite his attempt to sound compassionate to trans people’s needs, this explanation is actually an admission that HB2 directly targets transgender people for discrimination. By talking about trans individuals’ concerns separately from women’s and men’s bathrooms, he’s implying that they are a separate third category and should be treated as such. The trans men and trans women of the world would disagree. Forcing them to use a separate bathroom is not an accommodation; it’s discrimination.

Click here to read all ten points in “The lies North Carolina Republicans are still telling themselves about HB2.”.

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