Commentary

Cooper’s non-discrimination Executive Order is one step forward on road to diversity, acceptance in NC

Governor Roy Cooper’s non-discrimination Executive Order, which states transgender North Carolinians can use public restrooms and facilities that match their gender identity, is a most welcome reprieve from HB2 – and its partial repeal in HB142 – that have plagued our state for nearly two years. Critically, the proposal rightfully and finally prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, color, ethnicity, veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression in state positions, and “makes {at least state government in} North Carolina a welcoming place to all.”

That such an order was even necessary is a reflection of the warped priorities in our General Assembly on social issues as of late – ones that focused on non-existent “dangers” to others, based votes on “fake news”, and disrupted our local governments’ abilities to respond to the needs of their communities, cloaking the true intent to dismantle nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ North Carolinians.

The order arrives alongside a consent decree issued by Gov. Cooper, Attorney General Josh Stein, and advocacy groups representing LGBTQ to resolve the ongoing legal dispute over HB142. If the decree becomes law it will provide some relief to many transgender North Carolinians in our state.

But HB2 and HB142 will remain. Nothing can entirely erase the impact these hateful laws have had on our state, or its reputation. The work to move North Carolina forward as a human rights destination for everyone must and will continue. This week’s firm declaration that our state welcomes all individuals is a breath of fresh air and should be welcomed by all as such. The Consent Decree, which should be adopted, likewise closes a courageous legal chapter by re-lighting the path of righteousness and equal justice for us all.

Rick Glazier is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Justice Center.

Commentary

The 1% non-solution: NC needs much more federal aid to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew flooding – Image: Wikimedia Commons

Last week, we learned the Trump administration will provide just $6.1 million to North Carolina to support the rebuilding of communities and address the damage to farms, main street businesses, and homes in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. This is a mere 1 percent of the request made to the federal government and a rounding error relative to the estimated $2.8 billion in investments that are truly needed to build a resilient region.

The news of the federal abandonment of our state’s communities came on the heels of the North Carolina Senate budget release that provides just $70 million in state dollars for the rebuilding effort (an additional $80 million is allocated to draw down the expected federal request of more than $900 million). This would bring the total state commitment to date to just $270 million.

It’s clear what choice our lawmakers in the General Assembly and at the federal level have made. North Carolina’s Eastern region—one that is on the front lines of rising tides and cresting rivers, has struggled with industry and population loss, and continues to contend each day with the legacy of slavery and sharecropping—has been abandoned.

It doesn’t have to be this way. State lawmakers can immediately revise the Senate budget proposal to draw down the more than $1 billion socked away for a Rainy Day and stop planned income tax cuts for the wealthy and profitable companies that would reduce state revenues by $800 million. These dollars would be better used today to make sure that the more than 1,000 families without homes have a secure, affordable place to sleep. Those dollars could refurbish the region’s economic engines of agriculture and Main Streets by readying them to sustain the next storm and adapt to the new economy.

The quality of life we deliver to all people and communities is a measure of the health of our state’s economy. And failing to invest in every community in their time of need is a loss for us all.

The federal government’s abandonment of our state is not likely to end with this decision. Instead, it is clear through the Trump Administration’s budget proposal and Congress’ recent vote removing health care coverage for millions that the federal government plans to shift significant costs to the states.

The North Carolina General Assembly should prepare accordingly as they will be the ones left to deal with the fallout. Investing in all North Carolinians, rather cutting taxes for the few, is the only way to ensure that North Carolina can thrive, no matter what challenges lie in our future – natural or man-made.

Commentary

Responding to Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas

The tragedies of Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas serve as the latest reminders to all of us that we are our brother’s keeper, and that when we fail to talk with, understand, and care for one another, our prejudices and anger take over.

The result is all too foreseeable. With remarkably easy access to any weapon of choice in our nation, we count the victims in cities and communities every day — men, women and children; innocent civilians on the street as well as police officers protecting those exercising their First Amendment right to protest; those visiting a movie theater; and children simply attending school. Violence begets violence and prejudice breeds malice. Unchecked, all of it leads to the loss of human dignity, safety, and thousands of innocent lives every year.

We witness so many random acts of violence because we too often fail in our daily and communal responsibilities to exhibit more random acts of kindness and love. We leave countless victims caught in the crossfire of an uncaring or, in some cases, unaccountable family, school, and community. This creates so many more casualties harmed than in the crossfire of weapons used as horrific substitutes for unmet dreams and unleashed on alleged scapegoats for an aggressor’s lot in life, or worse, to impulsively end someone’s life due to stereotypical notions of perceived threats by groups of people that an individual, official, or institutional aggressor has never taken the time to understand.

Now, more than ever, we need to pause and reflect on what we can do in our own lives and the life of our city, state, nation, and world to foster true tolerance, in deed as well as word. We need to increase understanding as well as dismantle systemic barriers that have existed for decades and preclude real conversations about community realities, generational poverty, pervasive prejudice, and implicit bias. And it is imperative that we better decide how we go about lending a hand to those in need, cast out of society’s mainstream because of the color of their skin, country of origin, sexual orientation, or economic class.

We are all human. As John Kennedy said, “We all breathe the same air.” One day, hopefully soon, we will come to understand that if each of us is good enough for God, we ought to be good enough for each other. Our hearts go out to the families of the senseless shootings in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas, as with so many others who have come before them.

Rick Glazier is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Justice Center.

Commentary

Why draft HB2 “fix” comes up woefully short

Yesterday, in what appears to have been a premature release of a legislative leadership bill hopefully designed to begin the process of eventual repeal of HB 2, the press reported on a draft bill which, among other provisions returns the right of North Carolina citizens to sue for race, sex, ethnic, and religious discrimination as a matter of state law in state courts; moves to adopt, at least in part, a federal definition of the term “sex”; and creates an Anti-Discrimination Task Force to work to remedy the myriad of problems and repair the extensive damage caused by HB 2.

For three reasons at the start, this bill falls woefully short of what was needed – a full repeal of HB 2 – but at least provides the beginning of some acceptance of responsibility for the enormous harm inflicted by HB 2. It may also, if good faith exists on this issue at all, provide a mechanism to, sooner rather than later, achieve what history and humanity require: full non-discrimination protection for LGBT citizens in our state.

First, begin with the proposition HB 2 should never have been enacted in the first place. Coursing through the ink of every word of that bill was an animus against LGBT citizens. Discrimination, and all of its collateral effects, is an act of violence—an assault on a person’s right to equal dignity. It is the result of subjective, irrational perceptions which drain individuals of their dignity because of their perceived equivalence as a member of a vulnerable minority group, in this case LGBT residents. Misperception lies at the heart of prejudice and the animus formed of such ignorance sows malice and hatred whenever it operates without restriction. HB 2 was a bill born of misperception, fueled by ignorance, and driven by discriminatory animus. It was an abomination at birth, as the NC Justice Center made clear in every tweet, email, and plea on the day it was passed, and just as predicted, has cast a generational stain on our state’s reputation that will not easily nor quickly be removed.

So, start with a bill whose every provision, down to it subtitles and punctuation, placed North Carolina on the wrong side of history – not to mention the law – and I suppose any movement from that position can be greeted as some positive sign. I begrudgingly do so. But giving credit to the legislative body that inflicted the grievous wounds in the first instance simply because they paused to stop some of the hemorrhaging and not let the patient die is barely worth credit for time served on a life sentence.

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