Commentary

Even Richard Burr is now openly criticizing HB2

Richard Burr 2It would appear that recent poll numbers and the increasingly formidable challenge that he is facing from Democratic Party nominee Deborah Ross are forcing Senator Richard Burr to break with Gov. McCrory and state legislative leaders.

The Huffington Post reports that Burr was highly critical of HB2 in an interview yesterday:

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Tuesday that Republican lawmakers in his state went too far when they passed a sweeping anti-LGBT law this year, and said they need to rein it in before a judge does it for them.

“Yeah, I’ve got issues,” Burr told The Huffington Post when asked if he has problems with his state’s new law, also known as HB 2.

“The legislature botched what they were trying to do,” he said. “It was far too expansive….”

Burr has largely avoided talking about the law. He previously said he was out of the country when it passed; stated it’s up to the courts to decide if it’s valid; suggested it doesn’t actually discriminate; and declared it a state issue.

On Tuesday, though, he was clear that he wasn’t happy with it. He also predicted that the law is going to be changed one way or another, so the question now is which branch of government does it.

“It will be decided one of two ways: through the courts, where everybody’s chosen to place it now, or the General Assembly and the Charlotte City Council getting together and solving what was blundered on both sides,” Burr said.

Not surprisingly, Burr went on to make some other less insightful comments — blaming Charlotte officials and President Obama (naturally) for their roles in the controversy — but he also explained that he thought the Charlotte City Council made the right move in not repealing the non-discrimination ordinance that HB2 targeted this week:

“To repeal it before you know what the General Assembly is going to do would be a mistake,” he said, hopping into a Senate train car taking him away from reporters. “That’s why it’s got to be the General Assembly and the City of Charlotte getting together and coming up with an agreed-upon package.”

Commentary

HB2 update: Editorials rightfully reiterate calls for repeal

Here are two of the latest calls for repeal of HB2 from major North Carolina newspapers:

From this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“The Charlotte City Council, in rejecting a move to reverse itself on an ordinance protecting gay, lesbian and transgender individuals – part of which prompted the GOP-led General Assembly to enact the infamous HB2 – stood tall Monday.

Clearly under pressure from business interests and local leaders to give state GOP lawmakers a way out of a catastrophic mess they created, council members stayed with principle. Good for them….

The council has tossed HB2 back to the General Assembly, where it began and must end.”

And this is from the Greensboro News & Record (quoting David Gergen’s speech at Elon):

“’Enough is enough. For those of us who have stayed on the sidelines, it is time to stand up and be counted. It is time to raise our voices against this darkness. Indeed, it is time for fellow citizens of all stripes — white and black; young and old; native and newcomer; men, women and people of chosen gender — everyone — to join forces and preserve the best of who we are as a people.’”

He couldn’t be more right. Only the legislature and governor can repair the damage they have brought to North Carolina. They must repeal HB 2.”

Both editorials are correct. The only way to move the state forward at this time and beyond its national pariah status is to repeal the law. As I noted in a column last month, maybe there are some things that can be done to state law to ease the almost exclusively irrational fears of some individuals about bathroom safety and privacy, but to even get to that point, HB2 needs to go first.

Commentary

Justice Clarence Thomas takes his extreme views to a new level

Clarence_Thomas_official_SCOTUS_portraitIn case you missed it, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important decision yesterday when it overturned the conviction of an African-American man from Georgia whose trial featured some of the most outrageous, race-based behavior by prosecutors you can imagine. Basically, as Chief Justice Roberts detailed in his opinion, prosecutors did everything they could to keep people of color off the jury and then left a paper trail of their outrageous behavior. The decision to overturn was 7-1.

Sadly and weirdly, Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter. Here’s Ian Millhiser explaining at Think Progress:

It is tough to imagine a more egregious case of jury discrimination than Foster v. Chatman. The prosecutor’s office in this Georgia death penalty case struck every single black member of the jury pool. They made four copies of a list of prospective jurors, highlighting every African-American on the list in green next to a legend indicating that such highlighting “represents Blacks.” An investigator working for the prosecution advised prosecutors that “if it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors,” then one in particular “might be okay.” A note on one of the prosecution’s internal documents suggested that the office did not want a particular juror to be seated because of the juror’s membership in a “Black Church.”

And yet, even with all of this evidence and more at his fingertips, Justice Clarence Thomas said that the Court should not rule that unconstitutional jury discrimination took place in this case.

Fortunately for Timothy Foster, the death row inmate who was tried under these conditions, Thomas was alone in this view. All seven other members of the Court agreed that Foster’s constitutional rights were violated (although Alito did so in a separate opinion that only he joined).

Though Mr. Foster prevailed, the case is a window into why individuals alleging that their convictions were tainted by jury discrimination rarely succeed in court. In many jurisdictions, including Georgia, attorneys in criminal cases are permitted to strike jurors from a jury pool using “peremptory challenges.” Normally, these challenges can be exercised for any reason. Under the Supreme Court’s decision in Batson v. Kentucky, however, such challenges may not be used to engage in “purposeful racial discrimination.” Read more

Commentary

Whatever the Charlotte City Council does now, the fight for LGBT equality will go on

NO-HB2The Charlotte City Council backed off a plan to “repeal” the anti-discrimination ordinance that gave rise to HB2 last night. Good for the seven members who took that action — though the fact that they ever started to go down that road was a huge mistake.

First of all, the notion that there needed to be a “repeal” of a law already invalidated by the General Assembly didn’t make any sense. If the ball is in anyone’s court on this matter, it’s the legislature’s and Governor McCrory’s. Even if there is to be some kind of a compromise on this issue, it cannot involve HB2 staying in effect. The repeal of HB2 is the first thing that has to happen.

But even if the Council had caved into pressure from the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, here’s an important thing we now know about this debate: it wouldn’t have changed anything. The boycotts would still continue and North Carolina would still be a national pariah and laughingstock.

The simple fact at this point is that the issue is already too far down the road for the Charlotte City Council to somehow walk things back. North Carolina is at the epicenter of a huge national and international fight over basic equality for LGBT people and it’s not going to end until state leaders admit that they were wrong and agree to guarantee basic rights — the right not to be fired, the right not to be discriminated against in public accommodations and, yes,the right not to be denied access to a bathroom simply because of who you are.

Commentary, News

BREAKING: Charlotte City Council pulls anti-discrimination ordinance discussion from tonight’s agenda

The Charlotte Observer reports a bit of what appears to be good news:

“The Charlotte City Council will not discuss the economic impact of House Bill 2 at its meeting Monday, the city announced Monday afternoon.

That means there also will be no vote on repealing the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance that was approved in February.

Legislative leaders in Raleigh have asked council members to repeal the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance that provided legal protections to the LGBT community, even though HB2 nullified almost all of that ordinance.

In return, the General Assembly could modify HB2, in hopes of ending the impasse.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.