Op-ed: It’s time HB2 critics talk about more than just the economic harms of the NC law

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:

Jim Neal (Photo: LinkedIn)

Jim Neal (Photo: LinkedIn)

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.


As Charlotte works to heal, a young girl sums up a community’s anguish (video)

Zianna Oliphant brushed back tears as she told the Charlotte City Council Monday evening that fear and violence should not be a part of childhood in the Queen City. Oliphant was one of more than 50 speakers to pour out their raw emotions in the aftermath of the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

“We are black people and we shouldn’t have to feel like this, we shouldn’t have to protest but y’all are treating us wrong,” Oliphant told a packed council chamber.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts has invited the U.S. Department of Justice to monitor the CMPD’s investigation into Scott’s shooting. Roberts wrote in an op-ed in the Charlotte Observer:

“Our city must be more open, honest and transparent in investigating police shootings if we are to restore trust.”

The mayor is also calling for the repeal of a new state law set to go into effect on Saturday that prohibits releasing dash and body camera footage to the public without a court order.

Click here to read Roberts’ full op-ed. Click below to watch Zianna Oliphant’s emotional two-minute appeal.

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Pollster: HB2 issue is “just killing McCrory” in gubernatorial race (video)

Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen believes the one issue that may decide the state’s hotly-contested gubernatorial race is House Bill 2. Jensen, who sat down with Chris Fitzsimon last week, notes that 59% of voters now think HB2 has had a negative impact on North Carolina’s economy, while only 10% who think the impact has been positive.

If you need more proof, read Policy Watch reporter Joe Killian’s story from Monday in which a group of major investors representing more than $2.1 trillion in assets called for the full repeal of the discriminatory law. Here’s an excerpt from Killian’s story:

“Obviously there has been overwhelmingly negative reaction to HB2,” said Matthew Patsky, CEO of Trillium Asset Management. “While the U.S. economy continues to grow, quite frankly North Carolina appears to be headed for what I would call a state government inflicted recession.”

Patsky said that’s because the controversy over N.C. House Bill 2, which prohibits anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, has reached a fever pitch and is impacting how investors view the state and the businesses that call the Tar Heel state home.

With offices in Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon and Durham, Trillium is in a position to see how the national and international investment community is responding to HB2. “I have clients asking for North Carolina free portfolios,” Patsky said. “Including divestment from North Carolina municipal bonds. Moody’s and the S&P have already warned of the potential risk to the state’s bond rating.”

In the six months since McCrory signed HB2 into law, North Carolina has seen a series of blows to its reputation – boycotts from major touring entertainment acts, major companies like PayPal canceling planned expansions in the state and most recently the loss of NCAA and ACC championship games.

You can read the rest of Killian’s story here. Listen to  our full radio interview with Tom Jensen here.

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This week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

Taxcreditsupplies10-13-151. The cuts keep coming: More damning data on the state of NC public school funding

A recent lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer editorial “NC GOP leaders ignore recession cuts when touting funding increases” makes several good points concerning the state’s declining commitment to funding public schools. As the editorial mentions, legislative leaders’ claims that they have increased spending on public schools are “at once true and deceptive” since they compare today’s spending to the temporary budget reductions implemented in the throes of a historically bad recession.

A deeper look at the data, however, shows the decline in support for public schools is even greater than indicated by the editorial. Along nearly every measure, North Carolina’s public schools have fewer resources today even when compared to the last budget passed under a Democratic-controlled General Assembly. While it is true that the nominal budget for public schools has increased slightly from its nadir in FY 2010-11, North Carolina’s public schools themselves have not benefited from higher resource levels since the change in General Assembly majority. [Continue reading...]

Medicaid gap2. Census data a powerful reminder of the need to expand Medicaid

The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau included some frustrating information about North Carolina and it wasn’t just the state’s sluggish below the national average growth in household median income that the think tanks on the right have mistakenly trumpeted as good news.

The data also showed that the percentage of people without health coverage in the state dropped by 1.9 percent from 2014 to 2015. That means 173,000 people are no longer uninsured thanks to the improving national economy and the Affordable Care Act.

But North Carolina’s uninsured rate is still more than two percent above the national average—and it’s not hard to figure out why. That is the frustrating part. [Continue reading…]

ncfarmfamilies-13. The political machine behind the conflict between NC Farm Families and the Waterkeeper Alliance

A hard rain drips down the window of a farmhouse. A farmer stares at the dreary day and takes another sip of coffee from his cup.

“Struggle,” one of several ads produced by NC Farm Families is narrated by a young woman extolling the virtues of family farming. Her family’s farm, near Mt. Olive, she says, is a century old. “A farmer works six days a week because farming gets in his blood,” she says, with a touch of solemnity in her voice, “then goes to church to give thanks.”

The woman in the ad is Marisa Linton, director of engagement for NC Farm Families, a front group for the hog industry. Linton did grow up on a small farm, raising goats, sheep, turkeys, horses and pigs to show at fairs and contests. But the ad’s depiction of a humble family farm hardly represents the true picture of the state’s hog industry — or the powerful and politically connected NC Farm Families. [Continue reading]

Bonus read: EPA Office of Civil Rights investigating intimidation claims against DEQ

wb-incomegrowth4. The Right pushes another whopper about the NC economy
Why recent conservative claims about state income growth are flat out wrong

It’s understandable (and perhaps even a little poignant) that some on the right have been trying so hard of late to put a positive spin on the state of the North Carolina economy. If there’s even the tiniest snippet of encouraging economic news out there these days – anywhere – you can rest assured that conservative politicians and “think tankers” will seize upon it, gather round it and hold it aloft like ancient cavepeople celebrating the discovery of a shiny ingot.

Never mind what our eyes and ears tells us when we open them and examine the communities not fortunate enough to be located in prosperous pockets of the Raleigh-to-Charlotte corridor. Never mind the grinding and shockingly persistent poverty that affects millions – especially children. Never mind that the positive economic trends that are out there (and there are certainly some) are almost all in line with the national economic recovery. [Continue reading…]

hb2-divide5. Contentious, costly HB2 underscores North Carolina’s urban and rural divide

Since its passage in March, the struggle over House Bill 2 has underlined an already apparent divide between urban and rural North Carolina.

The law began as a struggle between the conservative majority in the North Carolina legislature and the Charlotte city council, which moved to provide broad anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

But with last week’s announcement that the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Atlantic Coast Conference will pull college championship games from the state over the law, political experts and new polls suggest the tide of political opinion is decisively turning against the measure. [Continue reading…]

***Bonus Infographic: When it comes to 2016 “bathroom bill” state legislation, North Carolina stands alone in restricting transgender access



As one NC politician apologizes for comments about protesters, another attempts to reframe #Charlotteprotests

Congressman Robert Pittenger is trying to walk back comments he made in a BBC interview Thursday in which he said the Charlotte protesters “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”

Pittenger was addressing questions about the reaction of protesters following the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

Pittenger, who represents part of Charlotte, later apologized for that interview tweeting that his anguish led him to respond to a reporter’s question in a way that he now regrets. Here are two of Pittenger’s follow-up comments on Twitter:

As Pittenger sought to clarify his statements, state Senator Jeff Jackson posted his impressions from Uptown Charlotte, focusing on the peaceful nature of Thursday night’s protests and the roll of local clergy:

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Charlotte has announced a midnight curfew for the Queen City.

In the meantime, the family of Keith Scott says it has more questions than answers.