Equality advocate and former U.S. Senate candidate Jim Neal has today’s must read op-ed on House Bill 2.
Neal notes in the Charlotte Observer that while plenty of politicians and business leaders have spoken out strongly against the economic harms of HB2, far fewer have been vocal about the negative impact on LGBTQ individuals. Neal goes on to explain:
I recognize the economic effects of HB2. It is a valid point – but it is not the point. Lost in political doublespeak is the physical and psychological damage that HB2 inflicts day in and day out on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Those who pay lip service to gay people’s civil rights by using garden variety economic tropes are not leading – they’re pinkwashing. Politicians repeat phrases ad nauseum like “I oppose all forms of discrimination” rather than speak plainly about the oppression of gay people. To these politicians, I say: Gay people are not a commercial venture. We are not an athletic event. We are not an economic development project. We are not a business. We are not a revenue stream. So much ado about a lost game while we remain fair game. We still live on the fringes of society. We are a people who are denied the same rights as heterosexuals. We are a people most likely to be the target of hate crimes in America. We are a people whose 10-24-year-olds attempt suicide 400 percent more often than straight youth. For all the talk about commerce, HB2 is a boon for trauma centers, mental health professionals, suicide hotlines, police departments, physicians and workers’ compensation insurance carriers.
Opposition to HB2 has been packaged in the soft fabric of conventional rhetoric about jobs and the economy by establishment political, educational and business leaders. Gay and transgender people have become invisible in public discourse. Despite having been cast as antagonists in Gov. Pat McCrory’s film noir, we remain mute background actors. U.S. Senate candidate Deborah Ross spoke of HB2 as “bad for business and it’s bad for our brand.” State Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper spoke to HB2 by saying “this is not about sports, this is about communities in North Carolina suffering real economic blows.” State Senator Ricky Gunn suggested repealing HB2 because of the impact it has had “on NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference athletic championship events.” The statement issued by chancellors Carol Folt at UNC and Randy Woodson at N.C. State was particularly disappointing. In response to the ACC’s decision to move championship games out of North Carolina, they said “We appreciate … the A.C.C.’s strong commitment to diversity and inclusion,” adding, “However, we regret today’s decision will negatively affect many North Carolinians, especially in the affected host communities.” They should have said diversity and inclusion … for the LGBTQ community. But they didn’t. Their words were crafted to appease, not to confront. They bypassed an opportunity to engage in honest talk about compassion, justice and equality for queer people in the state. Words matter.
Neal was the first openly gay candidate to run for U.S. Senate in North Carolina in 2008. You can read his full opinion piece here in the Charlotte Observer.