Commentary

Columnist: Bigoted and small-minded are on the wrong side of history

In case you missed it, there was a great and hopeful essay in Sunday’s Fayetteville Observer by physician J. Wayne Riggins that ought to be a “must read” for caring and and thinking people everywhere — particularly in light of yesterday’s horror in Orlando. The central message: we haven’t yet overcome ignorance and bigotry, but we will get there.

After citing MLK’s famous reassuring observation quote about the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice, Riggins puts it this way:

“And I think of reassurance; reassurance because, 10 brutally tough years later, when Dr. King led the march from Selma to Montgomery, he was exhausted and troubled. Troubled by the tragedies of “Bloody Sunday,” troubled by the political turmoil surrounding the march, troubled by the obvious risks, and troubled by the burden that fell to him, to reassure the faithful – and perhaps himself.

So his ‘How long, not long’ speech was born of that. The need to reassure the faithful that perseverance would be rewarded, that great sacrifice would bring great relief, that the arc was long but bent toward justice. To this day those words bring me great comfort.

When a gay man can be married on Sunday and fired for it on Monday, I need that reassurance.

When politicians would rather feed our children lead than give their parents the truth, I need that reassurance.

When North Carolina legislators would rather pay for incarceration than pay for education, I need that reassurance.

When a presidential candidate says he’d be uncomfortable voting for a Muslim to lead the country founded on religious tolerance, I need that reassurance.

When legislatures make it easier to buy a gun and harder to cast a vote, I need that reassurance; because our guns are not our most powerful weapons, our votes are.

And this past March, when our General Assembly targeted transgender Americans, some of the most troubled and courageous among us, and attacked their dignity, I needed to be reminded; reminded by Dr. King, that the arc is long, but bends toward justice. It gives me reassurance when I need it most.

And finally, I think of redemption.

Redemption, because in 1965 if the march to Montgomery had been the march to Jacksonville, my birthplace, my family could have been in the throngs that vilified the righteous, that deplored their courage.

It was in their hearts.

I know that.

So, the circle of life has graciously offered me this chance to transcend the transgressions of my forebears. Though I can’t right those wrongs, I have been given the privilege, the duty, to find my own grace, to help bend that arc.

That’s why I write.

I write to remind us all that the arc of justice will place the bigoted and small-minded among us on the wrong side of history. I write in the belief that we are better than that. Those of us who share this belief must help bend the arc. We owe it to those who preceded us and those who will follow.”

Commentary

North Carolinians Against Gun Violence: Three things you can do in response to Orlando

In response to this weekend’s horror in Orlando, the good people at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence have distributed a brief memo that spells out three things you can do in response:

“Communities across the country are reeling from the shootings that claimed 50 lives in Orlando early yesterday morning. A gunman with an AR-15 assault rifle opened fire inside a packed night club, killing 50 people and wounding more than 50 others.

In the wake of such extreme violence, it’s easy to feel powerless. But as we grieve together, there are critical things we can do to both help the survivors, and take steps towards a future in which this kind of atrocity is less likely to happen.

Here are three things you can do right away:

1) Call your representative to ask him/her to co-sponsor H.R.4269, a bill that would ban semiautomatic assault weapons. Find out who represents you here. Call (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak with your representative. Let him/her know that assault-style rifles have been used in seven of the eight high profile mass shootings since July of last year and you expect Congress to take action to protect the American public.  Let us know what response you get from your legislator – ncgv@ncgv.org.

2) Give blood. The Red Cross is holding blood drives in most major cities and towns. Visit their website to find a blood drive near you and schedule a donation appointment.

3) Participate in the Stand Up Sabbath.  If you are a person of faith, please consider engaging your congregation in remembering all victims that have been lost or injured to gun violence this weekend. The NC Council of Churches website has a sample bulletin insert and other resources.

Click here to read NCGV’s statement on the shootings.

Sources:

“Orlando Shooting: What We Know and Don’t Know”, The New York Times, June 12, 2016.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/13/us/orlando-shooting-what-we-know-and-dont-know.html?_r=0

“As Orlando mourns families await word on victims”, Orlando Sentinel, June 12, 2016.
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/pulse-orlando-nightclub-shooting/os-orlando-shooting-pulse-nightclub-20160612-story.html

“The gun used in the Orlando shooting is becoming mass shooters’ weapon of choice”, The Washington Post, June 12, 2016.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/12/the-gun-used-in-the-orlando-shooting-is-becoming-mass-shooters-weapon-of-choice/”

Commentary, News

HB2 update: NC asks federal court to keep anti-transgender provisions of law in effect

As rumors circulate about a deal to repeal part of HB2, the state is doubling down on its defense of and commitment to the discriminatory law. This is just in from the good folks at the ACLU of North Carolina:

In court documents filed yesterday, North Carolina and the University of North Carolina system argue that House Bill 2 (H.B. 2) – the state’s sweeping and discriminatory law that bans transgender people from public restrooms that match their gender identity and removes legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and others – should remain in effect while a legal challenge proceeds in federal court.

On May 16, six LGBT North Carolinians and members of the ACLU of North Carolina filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking the court to stop the enforcement of the provisions of North Carolina House Bill 2 that target transgender people for discrimination in single-sex facilities while the case proceeds through the court system.

The individuals and ACLU members are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, the national American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, and the law firm of Jenner and Block.

The groups released the following statement today in response to yesterday’s motions:

“After rushing to enact H.B. 2 in a span of hours, the government is now asking the court for six months to study its own law, so it can figure out what to say in its defense, all while transgender people suffer.  By arguing that H.B. 2 should remain in effect, Governor McCrory, legislative leadership and UNC are continuing to defend a law that specifically targets transgender people who just want to be able to use public facilities safely and securely like everyone else. Every defendant opposes efforts to block H.B. 2’s discriminatory provisions from remaining in effect while this case moves forward. In so doing, all of the defendants are continuing to inflict daily harm on the transgender North Carolinians we represent and to defy federal court rulings that conclude that federal law forbids discrimination against transgender people.”

The lawsuit, Carcano v. McCrory, was filed days after the law was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed by Governor Pat McCrory.

To read more about the case: https://www.aclu.org/cases/carcano-et-al-v-mccrory-et-al

Commentary

Today’s must read: NC’s cruel and counterproductive policies toward immigrant kids

Maria Cortez-Perez, 18, a graduate of Southwest Guilford High School, speak to her peers and reporters on tuition equity for undocumented and DACA students. Photo by Ricky Leung / NC Policy WatchBe sure to take a few minutes today to read Burgetta Eplin Wheeler’s excellent essay in Raleigh’s News & Observer about North Carolina’s knuckle-headed policies toward immigrant children looking to attend college. As Wheeler explains in “Stomping on the dreams of deserving students,” North Carolina remains part of a shrinking group of states that require DACA kids (those who came here as small children and have grown up in the U.S., paid taxes and been granted status to remain in the country) to pay out-of-state tuition to attend college even when they’ve lived virtually their entire lives in North Carolina. To make matters even more absurd, the state is denying these kids the right to receive scholarships they’ve earned. Here’s Wheeler:

“He should be waking up Friday, the day after his Wake County high school graduation, joyfully anticipating college in the fall, with admission to a Division III school in hand, a football position secured, a financial aid package all set.

On his resume are honor roll student, football team captain, Academic All Conference, N.C. Scholar Athlete.

This is a young man who worked throughout high school as a referee for youth sports, who spent his steamy Carolina summers laboring in construction with his dad. A phenomenal kid, conscientious, dependable, honest.

Every rule he could choose to follow, he has done so without complaint.

What he didn’t choose was to come to the United States at age 4 illegally with his parents.

Yet so many among us want to punish him for it.”

After detailing the numbers of kids impacted by these policies and reiterating the absurd notion of deporting millions of people who are here to stay, Wheeler concludes this way:

“Making it impossible for worthy and able students to pursue college degrees and forcing them into lower-paying unskilled jobs serves absolutely no one. To whom is a victory awarded by keeping the hard-working young man of character, ability and intellect I know out of college? For those with purely mercenary concerns, remember the better his job, the higher the wages, the higher the taxes and the higher the economy-greasing consumption.

By lifting the gut-churning fear of deportation and making work permits and driver’s licenses possible, DACA has been a magnificent first step toward rationality, practicality and kindness.

Giving this Wake County high school honor graduate and others like him the opportunity to be all they can be should be the next one.”

 

Commentary, News

Federal Court of Appeals: No absolute right to carry concealed weapons; NC lawmaker proposes amendment to guarantee right

The Second Amendment to the Constitution affords Americans no guaranteed right to carry concealed weapons. So ruled the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, yesterday in a lengthy and well-reasoned 7-4 opinion. Mark Joseph Stern of Slate magazine reports:

On Thursday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the Constitution does not grant citizens the right to carry concealed firearms outside the home. The decision, Peruta v. San Diego, is likely to be the last word on this litigation: It was issued en banc, meaning the plaintiffs’ only remaining hope is a Hail Mary appeal to the Supreme Court, which makes a habit of avoiding gun cases these days. Even if the justices did take the case, it’s difficult to see how they could justify reversing Thursday’s ruling: The majority’s 41-page decision lays out a compelling, comprehensive analysis that that even fervid defenders of the right to bear arms should have trouble dismissing.

The 9th Circuit case centered on a challenge to California’s ‘good cause’ law. Under the statute, members of the public may not publicly carry a concealed firearm unless they show ‘good cause.’ County sheriffs are tasked with establishing policies to define ‘good cause,’ and the sheriffs of two counties require a particularized reason why the applicant needs to publicly carry a firearm for self-defense. The plaintiffs in this case don’t have a specific reason to fear for their safety in public; they just really want to carry their guns around. So they challenged this interpretation of the ‘good cause’ law in court, insisting that it violated their right to bear arms under the Second and Fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution.”

In rejecting the plaintiffs’ arguments, the court provided an exhaustive history of gun rights in the United States and relied heavily on the Supreme Court’s Heller decision from a few years ago in which the Court found a Second Amendment right in one’s own home. here’s Stern again:

“In the decades following the Civil War and the ratification of the 14th Amendment—which applied much of the Bill of Rights to the states—this consensus grew. A number of states explicitly granted legislatures the authority to outlaw concealed carry, which legislatures quickly did. Every state court that heard challenges to these bans ruled the same way, upholding the constitutionality of concealed carry prohibitions. In 1897, the Supreme Court of the United States even asserted that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons.’

Until quite recently, in other words, there was a near-universal consensus among courts and legislatures that America’s Constitution, historical practices, and legal traditions do not create a right to carry concealed arms in public. That is enough, under Heller and McDonald, to reject the Peruta plaintiffs’ argument. Gun rights advocates may press legislatures to enact their policy preferences into law, but they cannot conjure a constitutional right to concealed carry this late in the game. And the 9th Circuit’s ruling in Peruta should give pause to activists who think they can use the courts to vindicate a right that never existed in the first place.”

Meanwhile, on the same day of the Peruta ruling, North Carolina state representative Larry Pittman introduced a a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee all citizens the right to carry a concealed weapon even without a permit. Click here to read Pittman’s bill.