Commentary

HB2 update: Guv flummoxed in Fox interview; Berger letter gets truth edits; N&R sportswriter says McCrory must “stand up”

If anything, the news surrounding North Carolina’s troubled LGBT discrimination law, HB2. has only grown in intensity this week. Here are three items  from just the last few hours:

#1 – Pat McCrory went on Fox News last night to defend the law but found himself getting raked over the coals by host Megyn Kelly. Click here for a summary and below to watch the video:

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#2 – The good folks at the Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC have done a fabulous job of editing an April 19 letter from Senate leader Phil Berger in which Berger attempts to defend HB2 to corporate CEOs. Click here to read the on-the-money and often amusing edits.

#3 – Be sure to read an outstanding column in the Greensboro News & Record by sportswriter/columnist Ed Hardin entitled “HB2 is up to you, Governor.” Here’s an excerpt:

“It’s time for the Ragsdale Tiger to do what’s right for his state, not for his political cronies in the state house.

This silly law they’re arguing about has become an embarrassment. They call it HB 2, a proposal that would limit protections for gay, lesbian, transsexual and transgender residents. Around the state, people are referring to it as ‘that bathroom thing.’

People around the country are making fun of us. Here at home, it’s not funny at all.

We’re losing jobs and money. We’re losing tourism and trade.

This needs to end, Governor. And you need to end it….

This is the time of the year when our state is on display. This is the time of year when people from all over the country come to us to get away from politics and play golf or go camping or go fishing at the beach.

Now is the time to embrace what makes us North Carolina, not what some misguided politician holed up inside the General Assembly wants it to be.

Stand up to them, Governor. And stand up for your state.

It’s the right thing to do.

Do it for your people back home, in Jamestown, where the Keyauwee and Catawba lived, where Quakers settled, where the Underground Railroad stopped – where you went to high school.

Esse quam videri.”

Commentary

Bathroom bill will be far ranging; purports to define gender, bans living wage laws

signageAs had been feared, the outrageous plan to override the Charlotte anti-discrimination ordinance in today’s planned kangaroo session of the General Assembly goes much further than just bathrooms.

Under the bill that will apparently be considered today (NC Policy Watch obtained a copy last night – click here to view the draft), not only will lawmakers purport to say who and who can’t go in public restrooms anywhere in North Carolina, the state of North Carolina will also “define” transgender people out of existence (the bill defines ones’ “biological sex” as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person’s birth certificate”) and bar all local governments from enacting living wage ordinances. It is, in short, a huge and far ranging power grab that that is both stunning in its breadth and scope and outrageous in its disregard for human rights and common decency. It will also, by all appearances, be rammed through in just a matter of hours.

Of course, wild overreaches of this kind have a way of backfiring on their authors. The religious and market fundamentalists behind the bathroom bill may think they will have “settled” the matters included in it, but in truth, all they will have done is help give rise to an even more powerful movement for justice and equality that will sweep this law aside in the near future.

For those interested in joining that cause, advocates at Equality NC and the ACLU of NC will be hosting a rally for equality and justice tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon at 5:45 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, 3313 Wade Ave. Click here for more information.

Commentary, News

Equality advocates to lawmakers: Please don’t legislate in favor of hate and discrimination

Erica Lachowitz

Charlotte resident Erica Lachowitz

A group of human and civil rights advocates gathered in front of the state Legislative Building this morning to plead with state lawmakers and Governor McCrory not to try and override the nondiscrimination ordinance adopted by the city of Charlotte.

As we have reported previously, conservative legislators are threatening to call a special session of the General Assembly prior to next month’s scheduled return in order to take precisely such action. The explanation for the action: the professed (and illusory) concern that the law’s guarantee of access to public restrooms for transgender people will somehow serve as an invitation for male sexual predators to enter women’s restrooms.

At this morning’s event, a long list of speakers stood up to patiently explain the absurdity of this rationale. Perhaps most impressive among the speakers, however, was Charlottean Erica Lachowitz a transgender woman, who noted that she has known her true gender since she was five years old. In quiet and patient but powerful remarks, Lachowitz explained that she understood the fear and confusion of people who haven’t had the opportunity to learn about the reality of what confronts transgender people, but called on them to learn. She also noted the danger that she feels and has felt (both for herself and her child) for years whenever she was unable to use a women’s restroom and pleaded with lawmakers not to try and force her back into the dangerous situations from which she has, effectively, escaped.

Lachowitz was joined at the podium today by the Rev. Nancy Petty, Pastor at Raleigh’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, two Triangle-area business owners, spokespersons for Equality NC and the ACLU of North Carolina, Charlotte City Council member John Autry and other religious leaders.

Petty decried the trend evident in the recent actions of North Carolina elected officials to enshrine discrimination and exclusion and called on leaders to follow the teachings advanced by multiple faiths to elevate love and compassion over hate.

Autry pointed out the need for the Charlotte area to be a modern and welcoming city if it wants to continue to thrive economically and generate 32% of the state’s economic activity.

In her remarks, Sarah Preston of the ACLU pointed out that if there’s any violence or harassment taking place in public restrooms, transgender people are vastly more likely to be the victims rather than the perpetrators. She noted that fully half of transgender people report being harassed and 8% say they have been physically assaulted simply for being who they are.

Though news reports indicate that majorities of both the House and Senate have expressed a desire to convene a special session, legislative leaders have not indicated yet whether or not they will actually do so.

Stay tuned.

Commentary

Preparing for next week’s “religious freedom” hate fest at the General Assembly

Paul Stam 2

State Rep. Paul Stam

If you had any hopes that this year’s version of the North Carolina General Assembly would be less reactionary than the last two, these should have been quickly dashed in recent days by the announcement that the 2015 session will commence its substantive work next Wednesday with a “briefing” on a bill to sanction and promote discrimination against the state’s LGBT population.

The proposal comes, of course, from that irrepressible foe of tolerance and modernity, Rep. Paul Stam of Wake County — a man who has devoted the lion’s share of his years in elected office to advancing a narrow and backward-looking social agenda. Under this latest proposal, Stam would attempt to allow registers of deeds and magistrates to opt out of serving LGBT citizens seeking marriage licenses if doing so “would violate their core religious beliefs.” No word yet on whether Stam would allow similar treatment of officials with “religious” objections to interracial marriage.

Happily, there is a deep and growing wellspring of opposition to Stam’s sham. Chris Sgro of Equality NC does a fine job of explaining this opposition on the editorial page of this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. Here is an excerpt: Read more

News

UPDATE: Greensboro police don’t believe attack on gay veteran was hate crime

Garry Gupton, suspect in attack. Source: Qnotes

Garry Gupton, suspect in attack. Source: Qnotes

UPDATE: Greensboro police say no evidence links to attack being a hate crime. (Scroll down for more information.)

A Greensboro man is in jail facing charges of seriously beating and burning a man he met earlier at a gay nightclub.

Garry Joseph Gupton, a 26-year-old Greensboro water resources employee, is facing a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflicting serious injury, according to jail records and  this article by Matt Comer of Qnotes, a Charlotte-based LGBT news publication. Jail records show Gupton is being held at the jail in lieu of a $250,000 bond.

The 46-year-old victim Stephen Patrick White, who is also a military veteran, was beaten and burnt on over 50 percent of his body from the Nov. 9 attack at a downtown Greensboro hotel. A friend told QNotes that White has had his hand and part of his arm amputated as a result of injuries from the weekend assault.

An employee of the Battleground Inn in Greensboro called 911 around 4:30 a.m. after hearing a man screaming at the hotel at the same time a fire alarm went off, according to QNotes.

Stephen White, victim in Greensboro attack. Source: qnotes

Stephen White, victim in Greensboro attack. Source: qnotes

Police have not described the circumstances preceding the attack, and no charges have been filed indicating the attack may be considered a hate crime. A call to the Greensboro police department seeking additional information was not immediately returned Thursday morning.  (see update below.)

Equality North Carolina, a gay rights group, said in a news release that it is monitoring the investigation.

“We do not yet know the full details of this crime, but anytime a person is harmed, especially in such violent fashion, it is a tragedy regardless of circumstances,” Equality NC director Chris Sgro said in a written statement. “Equality NC is in communication with the Mayor and the City of Greensboro to determine exactly what happened and make sure that the crime is fully investigated.”

A fundraiser will be held this Saturday at the Chemistry Nightclub, 2901 Spring Garden St. in Greensboro, and all proceeds from the door, and tips from the bar and drag shows that night will be donated to help White. Online donations are also being accepted here.

UPDATE (12 p.m., Thursday): Greensboro police told N.C. Policy Watch late Thursday morning that they do not believe that the attack was a hate crime, where the victim was targeted because of his sexual orientation.

“He (Gupton) never verbalized to us that he intended to kill somebody,” said Susan Danielsen, a Greensboro police spokeswoman. “There’s absolutely no evidence to indicate that this is a hate crime.”

Some national outlets in the LGBT community, including the Advocate, have reported that the attack was premeditated, a conclusion that police believe is incorrect.

“We’re not sure what caused Mr. Gupton to act so violently,” Danielsen said. “This is not a crime motivated by hate.”

Danielsen said more charges may be filed in connection with the fire that was set in the hotel room.

Gupton is in custody in the Guilford County jail, and could not be reached for comment.

(Note: this post has changed from the original to reflect that Greensboro police do not believe White was robbed in the course of the attack, contrary to what was reported in QNotes and other publications.)