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

African-American pastor’s op-ed should be “must read” for McCrory, Berger and Moore

There’s a great op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer that stands in stark contrast to the ignorant and bigoted statements issued of late by state conservative leaders on the rights of transgender persons. According to Governor McCrory, Senate President Pro Tem Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, transgender person do not exist; they are merely men pretending to be women and women pretending to be men.

You’d think that by 2016, the three men would have paid enough attention to the modern world and popular culture to have been dispelled of such absurd and ill-informed beliefs, but sadly, as we have seen in recent weeks, this is not the case.

Let’s hope that this morning, one or more of them, sets aside their blinders for a few minutes and reads an essay on the subject by the Rev. Terence K. Leathers, an Apex pastor. As Leathers notes in “The ‘Beloved Community’ includes transgender people”:

“There is a disturbing trend rapidly moving across this nation at an unparalleled and fevered pitch. It is based on hatred, soaked in prejudice and clothed in intolerance.

At rallies and other political gatherings, people are encouraged to act on their fears and ignorance regarding others who are different. Certainly, the current political climate fuels the spewing of mean-spirited rhetoric and sadly physical attacks as we engage in what is intended to be a democratic process.

As a straight African-American minister and pastor, I am concerned by what I consider a crisis. When did we become so uncomfortable with and even hostile to difference? I’m sure that many in the straight community are unaware of and some perhaps unconcerned about the plight of those considered different and non-conformist, those whose sexuality and gender identity or expression isn’t what we’re used to or even acknowledge.”

Leathers goes on to conclude this way: Read more

Commentary

Senate leader: I want to use the bathroom with Caitlyn Jenner too

Sen. Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

image: Caitlyn Jenner's Twitter account

Image: Caitlyn Jenner’s Twitter account

Apparently worried that he would be left out of news stories covering the new right-wing crusade to target transgender North Carolinians for discrimination, abuse and humiliation, North Carolina state Senate leader Phil Berger (a once fairly reasonable fellow) has come up with his own “me too” plan for making already vulnerable humans feel worse. The following post was added to the Senator’s website this morning:

“After Attorney General Roy Cooper claimed taking action against a radical Charlotte City Council ordinance allowing men to share public bathrooms and locker rooms with young girls and women should not be a priority, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) announced Tuesday he has appointed a Senate work group to work with the House on legislation to address the problem.

Berger appointed Sen. Shirley Randleman (R-Wilkes) as chair of the work group, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (Ex-officio member), Sen. David Curtis (R-Lincoln), Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth), Sen. Buck Newton (R-Wilson), Sen. Ron Rabin (R-Harnett), Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg), Sen. Norm Sanderson (R-Pamlico) and Sen. Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg).

“Attorney General Roy Cooper has admitted state laws trump local ordinances, and he is the one person with the power to stop this nonsense and enforce our state’s criminal laws,” said Berger. “But if he refuses to do his job and protect the safety and privacy of our children, then the Senate stands ready to return to session and resolve this issue quickly.”

“Senate work group,” huh? Berger can call this thing whatever he wants — it obviously has no official role or status — but what it will undoubtedly come to be known as is the Senate Bathroom Committee. What a proud moment for our state!

And see how he slid one of the state’s chief, non-senator anti-gay rights activists, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, in there too? Very clever.

The bottom line, to update what was noted in this space a couple weeks back:

Under the McCrory/Moore/Graham/Berger theory of human gender identity, humans are who they are on the day they are born. Any alteration after that is, apparently, null and void as far as the MMGB team is concerned.

Caitlyn Jenner? Sorry, it’ll always be Bruce to the MMGB boys. Renee Richards? Forever Richard Raskind. Chaz Bono? Forever Chastity.

So, the next time celebrities descend on North Carolina for, I don’t know, a Beyoncé concert, a championship football game, a film shoot in Wilmington or MerleFest in Wilkesboro and for some reason, Caitlyn shows up to check out the scene, let’s hope our male state political leaders finds themselves in the same men’s room line with a glamorous brunette. Maybe then they can explain to her (and the rest of the world) what the heck they’re buddies were trying to prove with their shameless/shameful pandering.

Commentary, News

This week’s Top 5 on N.C. Policy Watch

Abortion TRAP1. U.S. Supreme Court steps into the abortion TRAP

For the first time in nearly a decade, the U.S. Supreme Court steps back into the battle over abortion rights today, hearing argument in a Texas case that threatens the core principles underlying a woman’s right to choose as first set down in Roe v. Wade.
The question for the justices in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is just how far a state can go in regulating abortion before it unduly burdens a woman’s constitutionally protected rights.

More than 80 groups of scholars, advocates, physicians and others sharply divided on the issue have filed friend-of-the court briefs with the court, and many will likely also be gathered outside the court this morning as well in protest — testaments to the interest in the outcome.
Here’s a look at what’s at stake.  [Continue Reading…]

Great Tax Shift2. New sales taxes highlight NC’s “worst of all worlds” fiscal policy

Here’s one thing you can say for the conservative elected leaders running North Carolina state government these days: they don’t lack for audacity. Whereas some politicians might hesitate or display at least a small measure of hesitancy or sheepishness about implementing tax changes that dramatically shift the responsibility for funding our public structures and services away from the rich and onto the backs of the poor and middle class, North Carolina’s leaders are in “full steam ahead” mode.

In an era in which the one-percenters are already rapidly leaving the rest of society further and further in their rear view mirrors, Governor McCrory and the leaders of the General Assembly have enacted policies to, in effect, turbocharge their Ferraris, Mercedes and Teslas. [Continue Reading…]

School dropouts3. Limited resources, poverty, academic problems drive NC’s higher dropout rate

For the better part of a decade, North Carolina’s dropout rate has been on the decline. But this week, in the midst of ongoing bickering between public education activists and budget leaders in the N.C. General Assembly over shortfalls in state funding in recent years, state school officials will present data that marks North Carolina’s first increase in the dropout rate in eight years.

The report, bundled along with a massive presentation that includes suspension and other disciplinary data for the N.C. State Board of Education, marks a nearly 8 percent increase in the state’s dropout count, totaling 11,190 dropouts, in the 2014-2015 academic year. And the state’s dropout rate, which factors in enrollment growth in school systems, was up almost 5 percent during the year. [Continue Reading…]

Bonds-ConnectNC4. Connecting bonds and jobs in North Carolina

The folks running the Connect NC bond campaign have to be getting a little nervous these days, now less than two weeks away from voters deciding if the state should borrow $2 billion for much-needed higher education and infrastructure projects.

There haven’t been a lot of polls released publicly about the bond. One done by the conservative Civitas Institute a few weeks ago found that a significant majority of Democrats supported the bond and a plurality of Republicans said they were for it, though by a relatively close margin with a high percentage of GOP voters undecided.

The Tea Party wing of the Republican world is mounting a spirited campaign against borrowing the money and in this bizarre and unpredictable Donald Trump election year, anything is possible given the high turnout expected March 15th in the Republican presidential primary. [Continue Reading…]

Sexual violence5. The truth about sexual violence and the new Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance

As a long-time advocate for victims of sexual violence, I am always grateful for an opportunity to talk about how we, as a society, can prevent this kind of horrific and criminal behavior. That said, I am also frequently angered and frustrated by many of the conversations that do take place. A classic example is the current debate in North Carolina surrounding Charlotte’s new non-discrimination ordinance.

This ordinance, which provides new protections from discrimination for the LGBTQ community, is long overdue. In 2016 America, we cannot pay mere lip service to our belief in equality and fairness for all.

Sadly, the main sticking point in the debate over this new law is the same contentious provision that sank a similar proposal when it was introduced last March, and one that has been used whenever opponents of gender equality feel threatened — the use and safety of public restrooms. [Continue Reading…]

Commentary

Will legislative leaders call a special session to overturn the Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance?

It’s beginning to look like state leaders may actually be headed down the road toward calling a special session of the General Assembly in coming weeks to deal with that most vital of state issues: the “need” to make sure transgender people can’t use the bathroom that matches their actual human identity. AP’s Gary Robertson reports:

“There’s apparently enough support in the North Carolina House to reconvene early this year to consider striking down a Charlotte city ordinance that ensures transgender people can use the restroom of their gender identity.

House Speaker Tim Moore said Thursday he had received requests from more than three-fifths of the chamber’s 120 members to hold a special session. He started polling fellow House Republicans last week, soon after Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance was passed.

The next regular work session is April 25, but Charlotte’s ordinance takes effect April 1.

Thirty senators also would have to ask for the special session. Senate leader Phil Berger says returning early to Raleigh is an option but told reporters he doesn’t know if there are enough senators who want to do that.”

If lawmakers actually head down this road it should be quite a spectacle. Just think of the fabulous national and global publicity such a session will bring the state as media outlets from around the nation and the globe converge on Raleigh to record all the amazing soundbites of intolerance and ignorance that will grace the floors of the House and Senate.

Maybe the lawmakers can even arrange for a GOP presidential debate to take place here while they’re at it and the media are in town. It might be the one time such a debate would actually raise the quality of the political discourse.

To learn more about the absurd and misguided reaction to the Charlotte ordinance, be sure to read this essay by women’s advocate Tara Romano.