Wake County leaders unite to celebrate new non-discrimination ordinances

Elected leaders from across Wake County came together Tuesday to celebrate their unified adoption of non-discrimination ordinances. (Photo: Equality NC)

On Tuesday the Campbell University School of Law hosted elected officials from across Wake County as they celebrated new LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances in Raleigh, Knightdale and Morrisville.

Leaders from those communities signed a joint ceremonial document in support of protections from discrimination in employment and public accommodation in places like restaurants and hotels.

As Policy Watch has reported, the new ordinances became possible when a state ban on new local protections — including nondiscrimination ordinances for employment and housing — was lifted. The ban was a legacy of the  brutal fight over HB 2 and HB 142, the controversial laws that excluded lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from statewide nondiscrimination protections.

Since the ban on new ordinances expired, 18 communities across the state have adopted non-discrimination ordinances.

Campbell’s law school has taken the lead in helping resolve complaints filed through the ordinance process.

Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality North Carolina, applauded the signing in a statement Tuesday.

“Today we celebrated the commitment of Raleigh, Knightdale and Morrisville to making their communities inclusive of all,” Johnson said. “No one should have to fear bigotry based on their ZIP code, nor should they have to move to avoid discrimination. Having non-discrimination ordinances sends a clear and powerful message that all people are welcomed and included in their home communities.”

In its statement, Equality NC stressed new and proactive state and federal protections are still needed.

“We celebrate this commitment to equality and look forward to North Carolina being a stellar example of what diversity and equity look like in legislation,” the group said in its statement. “The momentum behind these signings shows that North Carolina stands ready, and we encourage others to communicate to their local leaders now is the time to pass LGBTQ protections, demand that our state lawmakers fully repeal discriminatory laws and enact proactive protections, and urge our elected officials in the United States Congress and the NCGA to support comprehensive nondiscrimination laws.”

As Policy Watch reported last month, North Carolina has so far resisted a national wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation. But LGBTQ advocates and Democratic state lawmakers warn of gathering momentum for such laws on the political right. With elections looming, the political calculus at both the state and federal level could soon change.

Florida special legislative session to include attack on Disney over its opposition to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

Walt Disney World is among the properties that could be impacted by Florida legislation targeting its parent company over its opposition to Florida’s new “Don’t say gay” law. Photo: Wikipedia

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has expanded the call of a special session on congressional redistricting opening on Tuesday to include “special districts,” including the one that gives The Walt Disney Co. governing authority over the parks and other developments it operates in Central Florida.

“Yes, they will be considering the congressional map but they also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968. And that includes the Reedy Creek improvement district,” the governor said during a news conference in The Villages in Central Florida.

He thanked House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson, who flanked him on stage, “for not only working for the reapportionment but for stepping up and making sure that we make the sunset determination on those special districts happen, which I think is very important,” DeSantis said.

The move would make good on threats by DeSantis and legislative Republicans to punish Disney for opposing Florida’s so-called “Don’ Say Gay” law which prohibits classroom instruction of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3 or in a manner that is not “age-appropriate,” which lawmakers have said means students in older grades. The law itself is titled “Parental Rights in Education.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Screenshot: KXAN News.

DeSantis signed the measure into law on March 28 amid complaints it discriminates against LGBTQ people.

The Legislature authorized Reedy Creek in 1967, as Disney prepared to open Walt Disney World. According to the authority’s website, Its 25,000 acres in Orange and Osceola counties encompass four theme parks, a sports complex, 175 miles of roadway, 67 miles of waterways, the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, plus water, natural gas, wastewater, sanitation, and electric utilities.

Backlash

Disney attempted to sit out the controversy of the law while the Legislature debated it during the recently concluded regular session but, pressured by employees, ultimately came out against it and stopped campaign financial contributions in Florida.

“Do what you believe in, but understand, if you are out protesting this bill, you are by definition putting yourself in favor of injecting sexual instruction to five, six and seven-year-old kids. I think most people think that’s wrong. I think parents especially think that’s wrong,” DeSantis said on March 22.

Michael Moline is a reporter for the Florida Phoenix, which first published this report.

Conservative writer Ben Shapiro turns out thousands at UNCG, inspires LGBTQ affirming counter-event

Shapiro spoke to more than 2,000 people on campus at UNCG Monday evening – among them fans, critics and protestors. While some people were ejected from the event for interrupting the speech, hundreds who opposed his appearance chose to attend a competing event instead.

 

Conservative writer and podcaster Ben Shapiro drew more than 2,000 people to UNC-Greensboro’s Fleming Gymnasium Monday evening, some coming from across the state as well as Virginia and South Carolina.

Free and open to the public, the event brought out passionate supporters of the conservative provocateur as well as critics, protesters and the merely curious.

“I drove three hours from Greenville [South Carolina] with my daughter,” said Avery Wilson, 46, standing in line for the event a half-hour before doors opened. “It’s not that often you get to see someone as big as Ben Shapiro come out and stand up for the truth and for the women and show everyone you can’t shut down free speech on these campuses because you don’t like hearing the truth.”

The event also brought out a number of GOP politicians like perennial congressional candidate Lee Haywood and Jeff Hyde, a Greensboro-based conservative activist and occasional political operative who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2010 and for Guilford County Republican Party Chairman in 2011. Several could be seen glad-handing and distributing campaign and other political literature to the throngs of people waiting to get into the gymnasium.

Shapiro’s speech, “Men Cannot Become Women,” was born of the controversy around recent anti-transgender statements and events from the campus chapter of the national conservative group Young Americans for Freedom.

The group, which held its first general meeting on campus in October of 2020, has since sponsored events with titles like “The Disguised Racism of Critical Race Theory,” “Realities of the Black Lives Matter Movement” and “Abortion: The Ugly Truth.”

With an event last year titled “The Horror of Leftist Gender Ideology,” the group steered into a national conservative trend of depicting transgender people as mentally ill, the victims of abusive parents or themselves potential sexual groomers of children. Nationwide, Republicans have filed nearly 200 bills in the last year seeking to limit discussion of LGBTQ people, limit or end protections for them and limit or bar their participation in certain activities. A nationwide swell of school book bans related to books with LGBTQ characters or topics. While none of these bills have yet become law in North Carolina, conservative activists and lawmakers continue to press for them.

YAF’s anti-transgender ideology hasn’t gone over well at UNCG, a traditionally LGBTQ-friendly campus often called “UNC-Gay” derisively by conservatives and affectionately by queer students and their allies. Read more

Another advocacy group calls for Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson to resign, announces planned demonstration

Saying “we expect our elected officials to represent everybody,” yet another North Carolina advocacy group has added its name to the list of groups and prominent individuals calling for the resignation of Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson in the wake of his latest homophobic remarks.

The following release was distributed this morning by the North Carolina chapter of the National Organization for Women:

North Carolina National Organization for Women (NC NOW) joins the chorus calling for the resignation of North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson since he is unable to respectfully represent all North Carolinians. Lt. Governor Mark Robinson has been called out for remarks he made regarding the LGBTQIA community in June, when he referred to homosexuality and transgenderism as “filth”. Robinson made similar comments on September 30 at another event, and he added new offensive comments at a church in Winston-Salem on November 14. NC NOW adopted a resolution denouncing Robinson’s remarks at their recent state conference. Many groups and individuals have marched and rallied and gone from trying to reason with Lt. Gov. Robinson, to asking him to apologize, to telling him to resign. There will be another protest at the Lt. Governor’s Office at 310 N Blount St, in Raleigh this Friday, Dec 3, at 4:30pm.

NC NOW supports the dignity and rights of everybody, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. We believe that everybody deserves respect and support. The Lt. Governor’s remarks are ignorant and hurtful to members of the LGBTQIA community, family, supporters and friends. In addition, his comments are discriminatory, inflammatory and potentially dangerous.

Lt. Governor Robinson is actively working to shame and ostracize LGBTQIA students. Our schools need to be places where all students are protected and supported. However, Robinson’s comments are in no way limited to books and schools as he sometimes claims. He is making them at churches and conservative events around the state, where he is billed as North Carolina’s Lt. Governor. Meanwhile, his claims are getting more offensive and outrageous. At a church in Winston-Salem on Nov 14, he “made clear that he believes homosexuals are inferior to heterosexuals, saying they serve no purpose.

We expect our elected officials to represent everybody. Lt. Governor Robinson’s remarks have shown that he cannot respect all of his constituents.  These discriminatory attitudes from an elected official, especially from the second highest officer in the state, underscore the need for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections in North Carolina. We call on Lt. Governor Robinson to resign his position since he is unable to respectfully represent all North Carolinians.

Transgender North Carolinians sue state over birth certificate policy

A group of transgender people and their families filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday over how North Carolina handles people receiving birth certificates that reflect their gender identity.

State law currently allows North Carolinians born in the state to legally change the gender designation on their birth certificate only if they undergo gender affirming surgery. But for a variety of reasons many transgender people elect not to have any surgical procedures related to their transition. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, says the state’s requirement violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.

Lillith Campos, a transgender woman from Jacksonville, is one of the suit’s plaintiffs along with two transgender minors represented by their parents.

“It is wrong for North Carolina to require that I obtain surgery in order for them to recognize me as the woman I am,” Campos said. “As a trans woman, having incorrect documentation makes me feel like a second-class citizen because I am denied the same rights as the rest of the population. It just makes me feel like I am ‘less than’ before the eyes of the state.”

North Carolina currently allows transgender people to change the gender designation on their driver’s license and state identification cards without surgery. But requiring it for a change on birth certificate puts that change out of reach for many transgender people, including Campos. The health insurance provided by her employer doesn’t cover it and she can’t afford it on her own.

Lillith Campos, a transgender woman from Jacksonville, is one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs.

“This discriminatory requirement presents a significant barrier, sometimes insurmountable, to many transgender people,” said Carl Charles, a staff attorney with Lambda Legal, in a virtual press conference Tuesday. “Particularly those who may not be able to afford such a gender-affirming surgery, who may not want or need such interventions or, like our minor plaintiffs, for whom it is simply not medically indicated.”

Gender affirmation surgeries are an increasingly common treatment for gender dysphoria. The American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association recognize dysphoria not as a mental illness but “a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify.”

More than 40 years of research into and treatment of transgender people experiencing dysphoria has led psychiatric and medical professionals to conclude the most effective course of treatment is gender transition — aligning one’s life socially and sometimes physically to better match their gender identity. Not all transgender people choose to medically transition, but for those for whom it is judged necessary, medical experts agree it can be life-saving. Because of cost, personal circumstances or for medical reasons, many transgender people never have any surgery as part of their transition. For minors, such surgeries are often not an option until later in life.

Katheryn Jenifer of Carrboro is another of the suit’s plaintiffs. At Tuesday’s press conference she said her daughter, a transgender minor, is already encountering problems because of the state’s policy on birth certificates.

“My daughter is a 14-year-old girl and the state’s requirement for surgery is unrealistic and creates a barrier for my child to have a normal childhood,” Jenifer said. “Not having an accurate birth certificate has exposed my daughter to discriminatory treatment and exclusion in school, sports, and other places. No child should go through knowing the state doesn’t recognize as who she is and that’s why I am supporting my daughter in this lawsuit.”

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney and health care strategist at Lambda Legal, said the state allowing the change on some identity documents and not others causes needless confusion and conflict, including transgender people having their identifying documents called into question.

“Birth certificates are essential and foundational identity documents critical for people navigating life,” Gonzalez-Pagan said.  “North Carolina’s policy explicitly requiring transgender people have surgery to affirm their identity is not only discriminatory but arbitrary and inconsistent with standard medical practice.”

“North Carolina is out of step with the rest of America and trails behind the majority of states that permit transgender persons to correct the sex designation on their birth certificates without a surgical requirement,” Gonzalez-Pagan said.

Lambda Legal has successfully challenged similar state laws restricting gender changes to birth certificates in Idaho (FV v. Jeppesen), Kansas (Foster v. Andersen), New York (MHW v. Cuomo), Ohio and Puerto Rico (Arroyo v. Rossello).  A challenge to Tennessee’s policy is currently pending in federal court (Gore v. Lee).

Joining Lambda Legal in the lawsuit are attorneys from Baker Botts LLP and Brooks Pierce McLendon Hmumphrey & Leonard LLP.