HB2, Legislature, News

For some legislators, a personal fight for LGBTQ rights

When Democratic state lawmakers introduced a package of bills to protect LGBTQ North Carolinians  this week, they knew it would be a difficult road to passage.

The current Republican majority hasn’t let similar bills come to a vote when they were introduced in previous years.

A bill that would completely repeal HB2 will be a non-starter with many of the GOP legislators who passed it still in their seats.

A non-discrimination bill that explicitly protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing and accommodation died in committee when last introduced.

The new bill outlawing “conversion” therapy for LGBTQ youth is likely to face stiff opposition from conservatives who believe such treatment is part of their religious freedom.

But for several of the lawmakers sponsoring the bills, it is not just important legislation – it’s personal.

“This is so deeply personal,” said Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham). “I was a judge for 18 years, listening to cases and affording peoples’ rights when my rights couldn’t be afforded. The hypocrisy of that…and probably one of the happiest days of my life was when the Supreme Court said, ‘Yes, same-sex couples can be married.'”

Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham)

Morey’s voice was thick with emotion as she emphasized the importance of the LGBTQ community — and legislators who are part of that community — pressing forward even in the face of a GOP majority that dismisses progress for them.

“So we keep talking about this community — well,  the community is here too,” Morey said of the legislature. “And it matters to respect everyone and for us to say everyone is  equal, everyone should be afforded their rights. And finally, after 60 years, to come out and say ‘Yes I am part of this community.’ Without the shame – because our laws are changing and our attitudes are changing. And love conquers hate and discrimination.”

Rep. Allison Dahle (D-Wake) agreed. Calling herself “a gay member of this big body of government,” Dahle said she remembered LGBTQ constituents being encouraged by her running for office. Those same people – and many more – are now in the fight with her for equality, she said.

“It’s a blessing to have all these people behind me pushing forward and saying that we’re all human beings and we all deserve respect,” Dahle said.

The environment of anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the state that continues to generate new bills against same-sex marriage can make LGBTQ North Carolinians feel isolated, Dahle said.

“It’s ostracizing but ostracizing in a very subtle way,” she said. “There are places you don’t want to go. We don’t have that big problem here in Wake County. But I hear reports from people in smaller counties that it just cuts off their social life, it cuts them off from being out in public.”

Rep. Allison Dahle (D-Wake)

The Mental Health Protection Act would protect LGBTQ people – especially youth – from being targeted in by harmful programs that have been disavowed by every major medical association, advocates said this week. The American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all condemn the practice as harmful.

Though some religious organizations support the practice – meant to “cure” people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender – critics say it can’t be defended as an expression of religious freedom.

“This is a practice only an adult who has the mental capacity to consent should engage in, if they so choose,” said Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality NC. “You cannot support electric shock therapy to change someone’s person, you cannot support sleep deprivation, starving children – all of those different things. Child abuse is not a parental right.”

More than 700,000 people have been subjected to the practice, which Johnson said has a strong correlation to suicide. Information on the number of North Carolinians who have undergone it is not readily available, she said, because the individuals and organizations who practice it are often not very transparent about it. Read more

HB2, Legislature, News

HB2 ‘Bathroom Bill’: Costly then, costly now

It’s been more than 18 months since the repeal of HB2, yet the controversial ‘bathroom bill’ that required transgender people to use the public restrooms that corresponded to their sex at birth, continues to tarnish North Carolina’s image.

An article in The Charlotte Observer notes that the city is still dealing with fallout from the legislation (and replacement bill), and earmarking millions to market itself to travelers.

Here’s an excerpt from the the report:

HB2 was passed in 2016 under then Gov. Pat McCrory.

Included in the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority’s current 2019 budget is $2 million in “Post HB2 Marketing/Sales support,” according to email records obtained by the Observer through a public records request.

The funding is for Visit Charlotte, a division of the CRVA. Visit Charlotte received $1 million last fiscal year for post-HB2 marketing/sales support, according to the report.

The $3 million total isn’t necessarily for one ad or creative approach, CRVA spokeswoman Laura White said. Rather, she said, it’s a “comprehensive place branding strategy” that includes more money spent on Charlotte’s branding, as well as consumer-facing media like TV ads in out-of-state markets and magazine ads.

White said the increase in marketing dollars is meant to deal with three concerns: cleaning up the city’s image post-HB2; improving its reputation following civil unrest from 2016 following the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott; and promoting Charlotte in regional markets such as Austin, Texas, Nashville, Tenn., and Asheville.

In its annual report for fiscal year 2018 sent to Mayor Vi Lyles and Charlotte City Council in late October, the CRVA noted that although HB2 was technically repealed and replaced with House Bill 142, North Carolina still remains under a travel ban from six states, with California and New York having the largest impact.

States with the travel bans have indicated to local tourism officials that HB 142 “did not go far enough in protecting individuals against discrimination,” said the CRVA, which is a division of the city of Charlotte funded with local hotel/motel and prepared food taxes.

“The CRVA is still finding that conventions with a high percentage of public employees attending are choosing to not come to Charlotte because of the potential of decreased attendance, which is up to 15 percent in some cases,” the group said.

Even after the repeal, roughly one in four travelers had a negative perception of North Carolina because of HB2, according to a July 2017 study commissioned by Destinations International, a professional organization that represents destination management groups.

Read the full article here in The Charlotte Observer.

HB2, News

Cooper: Transgender North Carolinans can use public bathrooms that match gender identity

Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein have proposed a solution for transgender North Carolinians who are prevented from using public restrooms that match their gender identity in legislation enacted to replace House Bill 2.

Cooper signed a non-discrimination Executive Order today for the state “to promote diversity and prohibit discrimination in government agencies and government contracts in an effort to make North Carolina a welcoming place to all.”

The order prohibits discrimination in his administration on the grounds of race, color, ethnicity, sex, National Guard or veteran status, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression in employment, and it also requires those doing business with the state to do the same.

This means that transgender individuals will not be prohibited under HB142, which repealed HB2.

Cooper and other parties to the lawsuit over HB142 (formerly over HB2), Carcano v. Cooper, also submitted a consent decree to the court to resolve the dispute.

“Earlier this year, I said there was more work to do to protect against discrimination and make North Carolina a welcoming state,” Cooper said in an email. “Today’s executive order and consent decree are important steps toward fighting discrimination and enacting protections throughout state government and across our state.”

In a statement, the ACLU, which represents Joaquín Carcaño, a transgender man who is the lead plaintiff in the case, said some parties to the suit agreed to the decree because of the significant constitutional harms HB142 has caused transgender North Carolinians.

“Nothing can make up for the cruel and senseless attacks transgender people have faced in North Carolina, but I am hopeful that the court will agree to clarify the law so that we can live our lives in less fear,” said Carcaño.

The original sponsor of HB2, Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), was not so thrilled with the news. He tweeted simply, “truce torched” with a link to a Facebook rant.

“Gov. Cooper, Attorney General Josh Stein and the ACLU propose a court ‘settlement’ that would guarantee access to opposite-sex restrooms, showers and changing facilities, statewide. They have joined together to ask for a ‘consent decree’ from the federal court that would prohibit officials ‘to … block, deter or impede’ anyone from using any ‘public facilities’ ‘in accordance with … gender identity.,'” he wrote. “It is the epitome of a collusive settlement. And an attack on the rule of law worthy of … well, I won’t say who. So much for the truce. I warned it would be fleeting. For anyone still prosaic enough to have regard for rights to physiological privacy — to be ‘distressed’ by ‘[t]he thought of male genitalia in girls’ locker rooms,” as the Observer put it many months ago — call the Governor’s office. Same goes for the business interests who pleaded for the HB2 controversy to be quelled by good faith compromise.”

You can read more thoughts from Cooper here and more from the ACLU here.

Commentary, HB2, News

Lawyer who defended HB2 now the Trump administration’s top civil rights chief

Another day, another outrage from the Trump administration. This is from a story by Rebekah Entralgo of Think Progress entitled “New civil rights chief at Justice Department has spent his career undermining civil rights”:

Thomas Wheeler, the Assistant Acting Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) division that handles policing, discrimination, and voting rights cases, announced he would be leaving his position after just 6 months.

John Gore, a Republican lawyer in Washington, will serve in the interim until Trump’s nominee for the position, Eric Dreiband, secures a hearing. Gore most notably represented the University of North Carolina system after it was sued by the Obama administration over the state’s HB2 bathroom bill. Gore is a former partner at Jones Day—the law firm from which the Trump administration has pulled at least 14 attorneys from to join the president’s team, including the White House Counsel Don McGahn. According to Election Law Blog, Gore’s now-deleted bio on the Jones Day website stated Gore had been “actively involved in redistricting litigation” in private practice and listed six cases in which he defended state governments accused of violating the Voting Rights Act through gerrymandering. (Emphasis supplied.)

Gore represented Florida Governor Rick Scott in a case over his administration’s attempt to purge the state’s voter rolls of potential noncitizens before the 2012 election. The move disproportionately affected Florida’s Hispanic community, which made up only 13% of the 11.3 million active registered voters in Florida at the time, yet were 58% of those identified as potential noncitizens. A federal appeals court ruled in 2014 the purge was found to have violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which prevents purging of voter rolls 90 days before an election….

Gore will not permanently maintain the job: Trump nominated Washington labor lawyer Eric Dreiband to serve as assistant attorney general in the civil rights division, but hasn’t yet been confirmed. Dreiband, however, also has a poor record on civil rights, and many activists have already voiced their opposition to Dreiband’s nomination….

Dreiband, also a former Jones Day attorney, has represented a tobacco company in an age discrimination case and Bloomberg in a pregnancy discrimination case. In his most high-profile case, Dreiband defended Abercrombie & Fitch in a Supreme Court case when the clothing retailer was sued for refusing to hire a 17-year-old Muslim woman because her headscarf was in violation of the company’s dress code, a case which Dreiband lost.

HB2, News

Gov. Cooper pledges to issue ‘comprehensive’ executive order protecting LGBTQ individuals

Gov. Roy Cooper told a group of people at the Center for American Progress’ Ideas Conference in Washington D.C. that he plans to issue an executive order to increase protections for the LGBTQ community in North Carolina, according to The Huffington Post.

“I’m going to issue an executive order pretty soon that is comprehensive, that helps with LGBT protections and we’re going to keep working every day,” he said during the Center for American Progress’ Ideas Conference.

Cooper’s office told HuffPost they could not immediately give additional details about the order. His office was not immediately available for a similar request from NC Policy Watch.

His vow to issue the order comes in the wake of House Bill 142, which repealed HB2, the state’s sweeping anti-LGBTQ legislation, but replaced it with language that bans local governments from enacting future anti-discrimination protections until 2020.

The new law also states that the General Assembly will dictate future bathroom policies.

The Huffington Post reports what Cooper told folks at the conference about his role in HB2’s repeal compromise — a move that was criticized by LGBTQ and civil rights organizations.

On Tuesday, Cooper said he wanted a clean repeal without a compromise but didn’t think it would be feasible, since North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature operates under the Hastert Rule. That means one has to have the majority of one’s own party to get anything considered on the floor.

“I had a choice. Do I continue to make a statement and pound the table and nothing happen? Or do I take a positive step, make progress and continue to fight?” he said. “I chose the latter for my state because we got rid of the birth certificate requirement. We opened up the ability of local governments to provide some protections now and some in the future.”

You can read the full article here.

Below is a video of Cooper at the Conference.