Commentary, News

HB2 lawsuit update: Light in the tunnel as court will consider immediate relief for transgender people on August 1

This just in from the good people at the ACLU of North Carolina:

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder will hear arguments on Monday, August 1, on a motion for a preliminary injunction that asks the court to block the provisions of North Carolina’s House Bill 2 that target transgender people for discrimination in single-sex facilities while a legal challenge proceeds through the court system.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal and the law firm of Jenner & Block are representing six LGBT North Carolinians and members of the ACLU of North Carolina in their federal court challenge to House Bill 2.

“Every day that House Bill 2 remains on the books, transgender North Carolinians suffer irreparable harm at work, in school, and in other public places, simply because they want to use public facilities safely just like everyone else but this hateful law prevents them from doing so,” the groups said in a joint statement. “We are glad our clients will finally have their day in court, and we hope that this discriminatory law’s days are numbered.”

WHAT: District court hearing on request to block anti-transgender provisions of North Carolina’s House Bill 2

WHEN: Monday, August 1, 2016 at 10 a.m.

WHERE: U.S. District Court, 251 N Main St, Winston-Salem, NC

The ACLU and Lambda Legal lawsuit, Carcaño v. McCrory, was filed days after the law, which also removes legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed by Governor Pat McCrory.

In court documents, Governor Pat McCrory, North Carolina state legislators, and the University of North Carolina argue that House Bill 2 should remain in effect while the legal challenge proceeds.

To read more about the case:



Tillis: Confirming judges has “nothing to do with doing our jobs”

Thom TillisSometimes it is almost beyond belief that Thom Tillis serves on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. That same thought must’ve been running through the minds of a lot of his fellow senators yesterday afternoon when Tillis took to the Senate floor to block a bundle of federal court nominations who would have filled vacancies that are causing backups in the courts. Many of them passed the Judiciary Committee unanimously.

Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record reports:

“Tillis objected that the Senate shouldn’t be forced to do ‘things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs’ while action is needed on important matters like Zika, veterans, drug addiction and defense funding.

Which prompted Democrat Elizabeth Warren to question what part of the Constitution says that confirming judges isn’t the Senate’s job.

Warren was joined by fellow Democrats Chuck Schumer and Mazie Hirono in trying to break a logjam before the Senate goes into its long summer recess. It could adjourn as soon as tomorrow.

Click here to watch video of the exchange.

As the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights noted on Twitter, Tillis’ position is, in a word, “crazy.”

The bottom line: Tillis and his blockading conservative colleagues are simply not doing their jobs in 2016 when it comes to their constitutional duty to advise and consent on judicial nominations (including the nomination of the eminently qualified Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court) and it’s simply an embarrassment. Unfortunately, Tillis is so uninformed with respect to his constitutional duties that he doesn’t even grasp how wildly off-base he has strayed.


Breakthrough? Local climate change deniers tout shift to natural gas…for lowering greenhouse gas emissions

Image: Natural Resources Defense Council

One should probably mark it down as a sign of progress. After all, it’s not every day that a far right advocacy group that’s spent many years and thousands upon thousands of words denying the reality of human-aided climate change, attacking renewable energy and lauding fossil fuel consumption publishes something that implicitly admits the error of its ways.

It would be nice if the group had published it under a banner headline proclaiming “We Were Wrong” and, perhaps, promised not to mislead readers any more, but we’ll settle for the baby step in the right direction that last month’s “Spotlight” report with the bare bones title “Natural Gas” represents.

The group in question, of course, is the Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation. As many readers are probably aware, the group (and its chief funder, conservative financier Art Pope) both have a long history of denying (or helping to deny) the reality of climate change and the role that humans play in bringing it about. A 2013 Institute for Southern Studies report (“Art Pope still funding climate change disinformation”) lays out several details, but you can simply go to the group’s website and enter the search terms “climate change” or “CO2″to find a bevy of articles that will make your head explode.

Happily, however, last month’s “Natural Gas” report seems to signal an important shift. Granted, the report is all about promoting the use of a fossil fuel and starts off with the disheartening and counter-productive assertion that “The top priority for electricity policy in North Carolina is keeping consumers’ costs as low as possible,” but hey, at least the report offers one king-sized concession: it repeatedly admits the desirability of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The report even quotes Obama administration officials, the European Union and the liberal Brookings Institution for the premise that the ongoing switch from coal to natural gas is benefiting our environment because it’s cutting CO2 emissions — i.e. one of the chief causes of global warming.  This is from the conclusion:

“Natural gas is not only a low-cost source of electricity, it has positive environmental impacts. Gas-fired electricity production is responsible for lowering CO2, SO2, and NOx emissions.”

To which, all a caring and thinking person can say in response is “hooray!” Like a substance abuser who finally admits that he or she has a problem, the Locke people appear to have taken a step in crossing an important Rubicon. Let’s hope it’s only the first of many such admissions from the various Pope groups in the weeks and months ahead on everything from tax policy to Medicaid expansion to HB2.

Keep your fingers crossed, but don’t hold your breath.


NC needs to listen to Fayetteville’s top cop, newspaper re: body cameras and police-community relations

Harold medlockIt’s too bad Governor McCrory and state lawmakers aren’t listening to some smart folks in Fayetteville when it comes to the issue of police body cameras and the broader question of how to build trust between law enforcement and communities of color.

First there’s Fayetteville police chief Harold Medlock (pictured at left), who continues to set an example for how law enforcement leaders should lead on these matters. This is from a story featured on last night:

“Medlock inherited an agency plagued by accusations of racial profiling when he took charge of the Fayetteville Police Department a little more than three years ago. He and his staff have worked hard since then to improve community relations, including asking the U.S. Department of Justice for input on how the police department could operate better. The federal agency made dozens of suggestions in December but noted that the racial disparity in police traffic stops is declining and commended efforts to build a stronger relationship with Fayetteville residents.

The chief also has been a vocal advocate for publicly releasing footage from police body cameras and dashboard cameras, although a new state law restricts access to such video to people depicting in it – and then only if a police chief or sheriff agrees.

Medlock said one of the keys to bridge the gap between police and the community is to change the way young people look at police. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with the department’s Youth Advisory Council during a May visit to Fayetteville to study its community policing program.”

To learn more about Medlock and his progressive, but no-nonsense views on policing, check out this video from last fall in which the chief headlined an NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon.

Medlock isn’t the only source of common sense on these matters, however. This morning’s lead editorial in the Fayetteville Observer  criticizing the state’s new pro-secrecy law on police camera footage is an excellent contribution to the discussion as well. As the author’s rightfully point out:

“We learned in April why videos shot by passersby shouldn’t be used as defining evidence of what happened when the police and a civilian have a violent encounter. We learned it when someone with a cellphone recorded an incident in which it appeared Hope Mills police officers beat a handcuffed man they had taken into custody. The suspect was African-American. The cops were white. And people in the community were on edge.

Fortunately, the Police Department did a thorough investigation and then it made all of its evidence public, including video from a camera in a police cruiser and one attached to a police officer.

Read more


Editorial: No more special legislative sessions…PLEASE

The lead editorial in today’s Greensboro News & Record has an amusing, if rather depressing and, ultimately, serious assessment of the possibility that the General Assembly could soon be called into special session to redraw unconstitutional election maps it attempted to force upon the people of Wake County. To paraphrase the N&R: “No, anything but that!”

This is from the editorial:

“It’s possible the legislature will be called back into session to fix Wake County commissioner and school board districts that were struck down by a federal appeals court. We hope it doesn’t happen. In the last special session March 23, the legislature came up with House Bill 2. It only needs a day to wreak havoc.”

The editorial then goes on to explain and deride another bill that lawmakers pulled out of their hats in the waning days of the recently adjourned session that rearranges state election law by, among other things, changing municipal elections to even numbered years without any study or discussion and altering the order of how candidates appear on ballots so that — what a coincidence! — Republicans (including the son of the Senate President Pro Tem) will appear first in races for the Court of Appeals.

Here’s the sadly on-the-money conclusion:

“Every time it enacts election changes, the legislature claims to be restoring confidence in government. That goal is incompatible with its blitzkrieg approach to controversial bills.

If there’s another special session, it could take a second shot at passing the defeated Asheville City Council bill or even go after Greensboro again. No, every city is safer when the legislature is out of session. It should stay out.”