A controversial section of a proposal from the North Carolina Senate allowing the UNC System Board of Governors to consider changing the names of state schools based on their effect on “enrollment, academic strength and diversity” has been removed.
The Senate Higher Education Committee discussed Senate Bill 873 Wednesday, also known as the Access to Affordable College Education Act.
The bill plans to cap tuition at five North Carolina universities at $500 per semester for in-state students. The bill also sets a cap on student fees and limits increases to three percent per year.
The five schools impacted are Fayetteville State, Winston Salem State, Elizabeth City State, UNC Pembroke and Western Carolina.
Republican Senator Jerry Tillman, who represents Moore and Randolph counties, said the bill will improve access for many North Carolinians.
“It’s the right direction for families who are struggling to educate their kids and it will help them from graduating with a huge debt,” said Tillman.
But critics say it is an attempt to defund HBCUs.
Republican Senator Tom Apodaca who represents Buncombe County, is the bill’s primary sponsor. He is a graduate of Western Carolina.
In addition to creating a cap on tuition and fees, the bill also establishes scholarships for North Carolina Central and North Carolina A&T, the state’s largest HBCUs.
Apodaca said the scholarships would help attract “the best and brightest” to these schools.
Some questioned how they would attract the best and the brightest to the five universities impacted by the bill.
Senator Apodaca said the free market forces would help.
“My belief is when you set price it will incentivize additional customers, for lack of a better term, to come to your institution,” said Apodaca. “So with more enrollment and more students I think you will naturally see a progression of everything else rising with it, as they say a rising tide lifts all ships.”
Senator Jane Smith represents Robeson County, where UNC Pembroke is located. She said enrollment hasn’t been a problem for that university.
“With the idea of increasing enrollment, they are at record enrollments right now,” said Smith. “Their enrollment has increased, I know, for the last three years, they expect record enrollment again next fall.”
But at other schools enrollment is a concern. It’s down almost 50 percent at Elizabeth City State since 2010.
Lower tuition also means less funding for these schools. Senator Apodaca, said the difference, an estimated $60 to $80 million, would be covered by the state’s general fund.
But Senator Gladys Robinson was concerned about providing that funding in the future. It would essentially be up to future General Assembly’s to provide that funding from the general fund.
The bill was also amended to require schools to cut student fees by five percent, opposed to the originally proposed 10%.http://chapelboro.com/news/renaming-provision-removed-from-senate-bill
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Every time there’s a contentious political issue, we tend to demonize our opponents – and we also tend to lump them together.
House Bill 2, for instance. They say we’re fomenting radical upheaval! We say they’re all ignorant bigots! And sadly, in all the shouting we lose sight of the fact that there are a lot of distinctions among the two sides as well.
Take HB2’s supporters. True, there are bigots, who only support HB2 because it makes life harder for LGBT people – but the bigots are not to be confused with good people who are still learning. Or those who genuinely worry about non-transgender men abusing a trans-friendly policy. Or those who say gender distinctions help protect privacy in bathrooms and changing rooms. Or libertarians, who at least support letting private businesses set their own policies. Or conservatives in the literal sense, who just aren’t thrilled about having to rethink everything that assumes a strict male/female divide – even if they concede that the assumption is wrong.
All those subtle distinctions are important.
But it’s not just why people support HB2 that matters – there’s also the question of degree.
On the one hand, sure, you have your die-hards: people who love House Bill 2, show up at all the rallies, believe it’s the only thing standing between us and total upheaval.
But then there are the moderates, and there’s a lot more of them than you think. The moderates aren’t happy with HB2. They think it’s poorly written. They think it’s way too broad. They’re embarrassed by the bigots. They know the “public safety” concerns are overblown. They hate what it’s done to our state’s reputation. They hate what it’s doing to our economy. And they think there are more important issues we ought to be addressing. Maybe they still support parts of the bill, maybe they think it’s better than nothing, maybe they’re worried about party unity, maybe they just don’t want to make waves – but they’re clearly not comfortable with it. And as the two sides get more entrenched (and more extreme), the moderates are caught in the middle.
So if you’re a moderate, and you get pressed to take a stance on HB2, you have a hard choice:
What do you do?
And that’s a huge question. How you act is even more important than how you think. Two moderates could share the exact same opinion about HB2 – but if they act in different ways, they’ll end up in very, very, very different places.
Case in point, submitted for your approval:
Margaret Spellings and Pat McCrory.
Both of them Republicans, both very public figures, both holding major positions of power in state government – and both of them highly ambivalent about House Bill 2.
McCrory, ambivalent? Actually yes, and no doubt about it. Pat McCrory refused to call the GA into special session precisely because he was afraid they’d do something nuts. In his signing statement, he couldn’t even get through two paragraphs before hinting the GA went too far. Even now, he rarely attempts to defend Parts 2 and 3 of the bill, the non-bathroom stuff; when asked about them, he steers the conversation back to Part 1. His April 12 executive order begged the GA to walk back Part 3 – and made it clear that his office would have no part of workplace discrimination against LGBT people, even if HB2 made it legal. And at no point has McCrory ever bought into the “public safety” craze: he’s consistently been a “privacy” guy, and he’s repeatedly rejected the notion that there’s any danger of people being assaulted in bathrooms. Pat McCrory supports Part 1 of HB2, he thinks Charlotte’s ordinance went too far, he’s willing to swallow Parts 2 and 3 to get the provision he wants – and he’s fully aware the NCGA would have just overridden him if he’d taken a stand and tried to veto. But he’s never been happy with HB2, not for a second.
And in that, Pat McCrory is not far off from Margaret Spellings. Spellings has never been comfortable with LGBT issues, she has a history of saying the wrong thing, and in the case of HB2 she’s clearly not interested in picking a public fight with the General Assembly. Nor should we expect her to be. She’s a very prominent Republican in North Carolina, so it would be front-page news if she did pick a fight; she needs to maintain friendly relations with the NCGA because they pay UNC’s bills; and she doesn’t believe she has the authority to defy a government directive in the first place. So it’s no surprise she hasn’t exactly been getting herself arrested at Moral Mondays. But we also know that she’s not a fan of HB2. She said so herself, and unlike McCrory she went after the “bathroom” stuff directly:
“Were it up to me, I would not recommend enactment…I think it sends a chill through these institutions for staff, faculty and student recruitment…We don’t intend to enforce anything.”
When HB2 passed, Pat McCrory and Margaret Spellings found themselves in the same boat. They both had qualms about the bill. They both believed it went too far. But they’re also ambivalent on LGBT matters, this issue was never their top priority, and they both have strong incentives to avoid challenging the all-powerful NCGA. They had their differences – McCrory supported the “bathroom” stuff in Part 1, Spellings apparently opposed it – but for all practical purposes, Pat McCrory and Margaret Spellings were caught in exactly the same position: moderates, forced to take a public stand on a volatile issue.
What do you do?
Pat McCrory didn’t have to make the choices he made. He could have vetoed the bill, forced an override, dumped it all on the NCGA. He could have quietly signed the bill and said no more about it. He could have issued a signing statement calling for amendments, or at least more dialogue. He didn’t have to issue statement after statement defending HB2. When the boycotts came, he could have simply called for cooler heads to prevail. When the lawsuits came, he didn’t have to say anything at all.
Margaret Spellings didn’t have to make the choices she made. The night HB2 passed, she could have issued a statement thanking the NCGA for establishing a clear statewide policy. She could have said UNC cared about “protecting students’ safety” or “protecting students’ privacy.” When the Obama administration stepped in, it could just as easily have been Spellings on TV denouncing “federal overreach.” It could just as easily have been UNC suing the Justice Department – Margaret Spellings leading the charge.
Any of those choices would have made perfect sense.
It could have been so different.
But those weren’t the choices they made. Pat McCrory could have quietly backed away, but instead he took it upon himself to be HB2’s public face. Margaret Spellings could have put on a smile and gotten on board, but instead she went out of her way to be as reluctant as possible. Pat McCrory accused HB2’s opponents of being uninformed and hypocritical; Margaret Spellings told reporters UNC is a “welcoming and safe space for all.” Pat McCrory sued the U.S. government; Margaret Spellings implied the U.S. government was probably right.
True, Spellings has still taken some heat for not opposing HB2 more strongly.
But let’s just say there are no delis in Charlotte currently serving a sandwich called “Burn In Hell Margaret Spellings.” Pat McCrory, not so much.
So whenever we find ourselves arguing about HB2, let’s pause for a second and take a moment for the moderates – forced to choose between cruddy options, on an issue they wanted no part of. Be frustrated with Spellings’ tepid reaction, but recognize how much she has been pushing back. Criticize McCrory, but remember he wasn’t the architect of HB2 – he’s just a guy who got a bad situation dumped in his lap and made one fateful choice that’s been snowballing ever since.
Kurt Vonnegut said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” McCrory and Spellings started in the same place – but Pat McCrory is the face of House Bill 2, and Margaret Spellings is not. It could have been so different, so easily.
Remember the moderates. It’s hard out there these days.http://chapelboro.com/featured/a-tale-of-two-moderates-mccrory-spellings-and-hb2
I want to talk about the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”
We’ve heard that phrase, right? Michael Gerson is the one who coined it, back in 2000 when he was a speechwriter for George W. Bush. Back then, it was an argument about race and education: we’re hurting African-American students by failing to hold them to a high standard, rewarding them for doing the bare minimum. Low expectations means students have no incentive to strive or work hard or be ambitious – so the achievement gap will never close, families will be stuck in poverty, and it’ll be on us for not having been more demanding.
That was the original argument, and it resonated well – especially with Republicans, who pride themselves on being the party of personal responsibility.
But here’s the thing, y’all:
Today, the “soft bigotry of low expectations” is still with us – only it’s not against African-Americans.
It’s against Republicans.
Today, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan met to work out an “agreement” to re-unify the GOP. Now, Donald Trump is a pathological liar, he says he wants to ban all Muslims from entering the country, he’s stirred up hatred of immigrants, he’s threatened to prosecute journalists who criticize him, and he’s actively encouraged his followers to beat up anyone who disagrees. Any one of those things ought to be enough to disqualify him from being president – if we hold our candidates up to high standards. Instead, GOP leaders are willing to let all that slide. Ryan will settle for some tiny concession, they’ll come out saying they’ve had great talks and reached an understanding, and they’ll shake hands and smile and move on. (Even as I’m writing this, Ryan and Trump just released a statement to exactly that effect.)
Meanwhile, Trump is creating a new controversy by refusing to release his tax returns. “There’s nothing to learn from them,” he says. Trump’s opponents say he’s lying about his finances, he’s not really worth ten billion dollars, he’s involved in shady dealings. But there’s no proof without the tax returns, so Trump says it must be a non-issue.
That’s how low the bar is for Donald Trump. We can’t prove he’s committed dozens of felonies; therefore he’s qualified to lead the free world. He has no respect for the Constitution, but that’s okay because he gives the GOP a slightly better chance of winning in November.
The soft bigotry of low expectations.
And it’s not just Trump. In North Carolina, we’re all about to go to court over the “bathroom” section of House Bill 2. What, exactly, are Republicans arguing? They’re arguing that federal law bans discrimination on the basis of sex, but it doesn’t overtly ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity, so a law that discriminates on that basis is technically acceptable.
Mind you, this is not the GOP’s fallback position – this is their position. Pat McCrory is making this argument loudly and proudly. “House Bill 2 is technically not directly against the law, so therefore it must be okay.” Forget whether it actually protects public safety. (McCrory hasn’t even tried to make that argument for weeks, in case you haven’t noticed.) As long as it manages to skate riiight up to the line of breaking federal law without actually technically crossing it, House Bill 2 must be perfectly fine.
The soft bigotry of low expectations.
And it’s not even just House Bill 2. This year alone, we’ve had legal fights over Congressional district lines, state legislative district lines, voter ID, teacher tenure, and judicial elections. Sooner or later, “magistrate recusal” is heading to the courts as well. And in every single one of those cases, it’s the same argument from the GOP: “Well, technically it’s not quite a violation of federal law, so therefore it must be okay.”
You know what? That’s not good enough.
It’s time we raised the bar.
Rather than letting the NCGA get away with passing bill after bill that’s arguably just slightly not quite unconstitutional, let’s demand our lawmakers pass bills that don’t create a legal crisis at all.
Rather than having to go to court and nitpick over whether our district lines constitute racial gerrymandering or just partisan gerrymandering, let’s just draw our district lines without any gerrymandering whatsoever.
Rather than making Pat McCrory go on TV and argue that “gender” discrimination technically isn’t the same thing as “sex” discrimination, let’s just have a law that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender or sex.
Rather than making teachers sue the state to secure their contractually guaranteed benefits, let’s just fulfill the frigging contract.
Rather than jumping through legal hoops to argue that we’re not technically violating the Voting Rights Act when we impose new voting restrictions, let’s just…not impose new voting restrictions.
And rather than selling your soul and supporting a presidential candidate who stirs up hatred, panders to racists, trashes the Constitution, and generally acts like an eight-year-old playground bully, let’s actually demand our candidates meet a higher standard than the lowest possible bar. Ditch Trump if you need to. Vote for Gary Johnson instead. Democrats, if your candidate doesn’t hold up to high standards either, same story. Vote Johnson. Vote Stein. Write in somebody good.
Our political leaders ought to be better than this. Our candidates ought to be better than this. We ought to be better than this.
Otherwise, we’re subjecting ourselves, our state, and our country to the soft bigotry of low expectations. And we’re going to hate ourselves for it.
To hell with that. There’s too much hate already.
Postscript: Michael Gerson, the speechwriter who originally coined the phrase “soft bigotry of low expectations,” is now a writer for the Washington Post – and he’s remained consistent. He’s been a vocal opponent of Donald Trump’s for a long time now, most recently in this column.http://chapelboro.com/featured/donald-trump-hb2-and-the-soft-bigotry-of-low-expectations
State lawmakers have introduced a bill to help teachers pay off their student loans.
Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Orange, Durham), along with some of his democratic colleagues, introduced House Bill 1031 – the North Carolina Teacher Help Fund.
The fund will give up 38.5 million of education lottery funds to public school teachers to help pay off their student loans.
Meyer, himself a former public school employee, said they would use funds from a major Powerball drawing in January.
“We’d like the windfall from the lottery profits to be a jackpot for North Carolina teachers,” said Meyer.
He said they would need a consistent revenue stream, however, for the fund in the future.
According to Meyer, up to 3,800 teachers would be eligible for the loan forgiveness and they could each receive up to $10,000.
Both public and charter school teachers would be eligible.
Rep. Ed Hanes (D-Forsyth) said this bill was something everyone could stand behind.
“Why can’t we use these funds to help ease the burden on these public servants? Why can’t we use it as an opportunity to unite our state behind what is good, what is right? And that is supporting our teachers,” said Hanes.
In exchange for the funds, teachers would have to commit to at least four more years in the classroom.
Rep. Bobbie Richardson, (D- Franklin) thinks that commitment to teachers could be a boost for North Carolina’s economy.
“I believe that showing unwavering support and respect for our teachers would put North Carolina on the map for economic development,” said Richardson.
North Carolina has ranked towards to bottom in teacher pay in the last several years. But according to the National Education Association, the state is expected to rise in the rankings after a 7% teacher pay increase went into effect last year.
Meyer said more still needs to be done to attract and keep teachers in the state.
“This type of loan forgiveness is targeted directly at the young teachers who are most likely to leave our profession because of North Carolina’s lagging pay,” said Meyer.
Meyer said this bill is in line with the original purpose of the lottery; to supplement education spending, not to act as a revenue stream for essential items.
Meyer said that Gov. McCrory’s budget proposes using the same funds to purchase text books and technology for classrooms, which he said usually comes out of the general fund.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/oc-rep-introduces-bill-to-help-teachers-pay-loans
2016 has been a tumultuous year for UNC – with protests still ongoing against new system president Margaret Spellings, even before she’s had a chance to get into the job.
Will she be able to do her job, with those demonstrations continuing? What do university leaders see as being her agenda as system president? And what do they think she can – and should – try to accomplish?
“I think she’s absolutely going to be able to do her job,” said UNC-Chapel Hill faculty chair Bruce Cairns at last week’s WCHL Community Forum.
Cairns added that he doesn’t expect Spellings to pursue an agenda much removed from what we’ve seen before. “When you listen to President Spellings talk about what she would like to see happen,” he said, “I think it’s really about allowing us to continue to be a great public university system.”
But what agenda should Margaret Spellings be pursuing as system president? What should she be trying to do?
UNC senior Hayley Fowler is a reporter for the Daily Tar Heel who’s been following the controversy from the beginning; she says Spellings needs to assure students that they do have a voice in how the university is run.
“I think for students, it’s becoming increasingly important that she continue to build their trust and reach out to them personally,” she says. “The students that have been protesting don’t feel that they have a voice and they haven’t had access to the Board of Governors or Margaret Spellings herself…
“I think they’re working on opening that line of communication and dialogue, and that’s something that should be a priority moving forward, if they want to engage students in the conversation.”
But it’s not just students who want to build stronger relationships. Durham Tech president Bill Ingram says there’s also an expectation that Spellings should be working to build closer ties between the UNC system and North Carolina’s community colleges.
“She’s not the only new higher-education leader in North Carolina – Jimmie Williamson will be the new community college system president on July 1,” Ingram says. “Her ability to work with Dr. Williamson and others, and for her to encourage relationships between the (UNC) campuses and the community colleges, will be essential to her success.”
Even if Spellings is able to forge those relationships, it’s not likely the protests and demonstrations will be going away anytime soon. Many in the UNC system say they see Spellings’ appointment as political – Republicans on the Board of Governors selecting one of their own – and that concern is never going to go away, regardless of what Spellings does or doesn’t do on the job.
But is a political appointment necessarily a bad thing? John Locke Foundation communications director Mitch Kokai says there may be a benefit to having a Republican as UNC system president, even if the university’s agenda doesn’t change.
“Margaret Spellings comes in as someone that the Republicans who run the General Assembly will listen to,” he says. “I think a lot of folks (in the NCGA) saw Tom Ross as part of the Democratic establishment…(and) there was always a level of distrust that they won’t have with Margaret Spellings…
“And so I think she may come in, not even have any major, drastic differences in what she wants to see for the UNC system – but you’ll see doors be opened more often, just because of her pedigree.”
North Carolina is getting a bad rap around the country (and the world) for passing House Bill 2.
But while the state may support the law, the state’s residents think differently.
That’s the finding of Public Policy Polling‘s latest survey of North Carolina voters, released earlier this week. Only 36 percent of North Carolinians say they support HB2, while 45 percent say they’re opposed. Predictably, this splits along party lines – Democrats are against it by a 63-20 margin, while Republicans are in favor by a 56-24 margin. (Independent voters oppose the bill by a 46-33 margin, mirroring the state as a whole.)
But PPP director Tom Jensen says even those partisan numbers are striking: up until recently, he says, Republicans had been more united in their opposition to LGBT rights than Democrats were in their support – that was the case in the Amendment 1 debate, for instance – but that now appears to have changed.
Voters also generally agree that House Bill 2’s effects have been generally negative. Only 37 percent say it has made the state safer (44 percent say it hasn’t); only 22 percent say the bill has helped improve North Carolina’s national reputation; and only 11 percent of North Carolinians think the bill is having a positive impact on the state’s economy. (To put that last number into perspective, 12 percent of North Carolinians in the same survey said they disapprove of Harriet Tubman.)
Tom Jensen spoke this week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.
Jensen says the HB2 debate is also affecting other races on the 2016 ballot. The gubernatorial race hasn’t changed much – Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Roy Cooper are still in a statistical tie – but Cooper now leads McCrory for the first time in three months (though only by a single point, 43-42). Democrats lead Republicans on a generic General Assembly ballot, 45-42 – not nearly enough to retake the majority, but possibly enough to overcome the GOP’s veto-proof majority in both houses of the state legislature.
House Bill 2 is a state issue, but Jensen says the race for U.S. Senate is also tightening: Republican incumbent Richard Burr now leads Democratic challenger Deborah Ross by only four points, 40-36. (Ross is still an unknown quantity among North Carolinians: 65 percent of voters still have no opinion of her either way. Remarkably, this means there are more North Carolinians who say they want Ross to be their Senator than there are who say they’ve formed an opinion about her.)
And North Carolina is still likely to be a battleground state in the presidential race. In hypothetical matchups, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tied 44-44, and Clinton leads Ted Cruz 45-40. (This isn’t the only state where Cruz is less popular than Trump: that wasn’t the case anywhere until recently, but Jensen says it’s a growing trend.) Should Bernie Sanders pull out the Democratic nomination, he polls three points better than Clinton: Sanders leads Trump 46-43 and Cruz 46-38.
Finally, on the U.S. Treasury’s recent decision to put Harriet Tubman on the 20-dollar bill in place of Andrew Jackson: a majority of North Carolinians approve of both Tubman (60%) and Jackson (51%), but more North Carolinians would prefer Jackson stay on the 20 by a 44-39 margin.
(That number, though, is skewed by one particular demographic: voters who approve of Donald Trump. Trump supporters prefer Jackson to Tubman, 75-13.)http://chapelboro.com/featured/ppp-north-carolinians-not-happy-with-house-bill-2
It’s said that in Chapel Hill there are four opinions for every three people, and this month every single one of those opinions has had something to do with House Bill 2.
What have our local residents and community leaders been saying?
On March 24, the NCGA passed House Bill 2. Shortly after the State House voted, State Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Chapel Hill) returned to town and spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL.
Ashley DeSena is a Republican and a former candidate for Hillsborough Board of Commissioners. On Friday, March 25, she and Aaron discussed the bill. (DeSena opposes both HB2 and the original Charlotte ordinance that triggered the whole debate in the first place.)
Jeff Danner is an engineer who writes Chapelboro’s “Common Science” column. On the air with Aaron, he argued that a truly “data-driven” approach would have steered policymakers away from a law like HB2.
And with the General Assembly returning to session on April 25, State Rep. Graig Meyer made a return appearance to WCHL to talk about what he’s heard from constituents and what he expects to happen in Raleigh.
You’ve heard some of my commentaries here on WCHL about our General Assembly in Raleigh on the crazy bills that have been voted on and signed by our governor.
Pat McCrory has gutted unemployment benefits by 36 percent, while giving his cabinet members, campaign donors and paid election workers an eight percent raise. Telling us that this would attract the best and brightest to run our state.
We have seen this divide and conquer strategy used in other states turning the public against our teachers and it works.
Requiring unfunded criminal background checks and drug testing on the unemployed without a jobs bill even being drawn up by a single committee. The house is prepared to end a state tax credit for low income working families while repealing the estate tax that would benefit only 123 people. You heard that right. Only 123 individuals in the whole state of North Carolina and raises the taxes on almost a million in our state.
This alone will cost us $52 million. Attacking the college students who want to vote here in Orange County where they live and pay taxes and not where their parents live. Passing a voter ID bill that will cost us up to $18 million to fund to defeat the problem of in-person voter fraud that can’t be found.
Just when you thought you had seen it all and nothing else would be worse, you think I’m being silly? Try keeping up the crazy train that’s in Raleigh.
— Wiley Posthttp://chapelboro.com/columns/the-commentators/dont-forget-general-assembly-hb2
On Wednesday, March 23, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2, in response to a Charlotte ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Lawmakers who supported the bill insisted they only wanted to overturn one part of that ordinance – people were worried it would lead to men in dresses barging into the ladies’ room – but the actual bill they passed was much, much broader.
To put it mildly, there has been a bit of a backlash. Dozens of businesses have publicly denounced the bill. The NCAA is hinting that it might not host championship events in North Carolina anymore. The NBA suggested it might move the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte. The mayor of San Francisco just banned town staff from traveling here on the public dime. And on and on.
So now Republicans are in damage control mode. On Friday, Governor Pat McCrory released a statement called “Myths vs. Facts,” in the form of a frequently-asked-questions page, to counter some of the criticisms. (They really want to make sure this gets out. We at WCHL have received this same statement three times already, from three different state departments. Others have reported receiving it as many as eight times.)
Give him credit! McCrory’s FAQ page gets a couple things wrong – for instance, he says “nothing changes in North Carolina cities,” which isn’t right, and he says the bill doesn’t “take away existing protections for individuals in North Carolina,” though in fact it does – but in general, most of what’s there is technically correct.
Only thing is, he forgot a few questions.
So let’s take care of that.
1. Now that House Bill 2 has passed, is it legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians in North Carolina?
Yes. Sections 3.1 and 3.3 of the bill prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, and biological sex. (Section 3.1 also bans discrimination on the basis of age or disability, but only when it comes to employment practices.) Sexual orientation is not included as a category, so it is, in fact, legal now to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
2. What does that mean in practice?
You can be fired for being gay. You can be demoted for being gay. Employers can refuse to hire you for being gay. They can refuse to promote you for being gay. Businesses can refuse to serve you for being gay.
3. If someone wants to discriminate against gays and lesbians, do they have to claim a “sincere religious objection,” like in the Indiana law last year that caused such a fuss?
No. State law allows people to discriminate against gays and lesbians for any reason they like.
4. Was that just an oversight?
No. A State House member proposed amending the bill to include sexual orientation as a protected category, but the House explicitly decided not to do so.
5. Is this a change from before?
Not on the state level. But there were local ordinances in towns and counties across the state that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – and House Bill 2 “supersedes and preempts” those local laws, so they all got wiped out overnight.
6. Can local governments pass new ordinances banning discrimination?
No. House Bill 2 explicitly forbids them from doing so. (Local governments are free to decide how they want to hire and fire their own employees, but that’s it.)
7. Are there other categories that are no longer protected?
Yes. Orange County, for instance, had an ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of veteran status and familial status, but that’s been wiped out too.
8. So you can be discriminated against for being a veteran now?
Not quite. There is a federal law that bans discrimination against military veterans, so you’re still covered there. If you do experience discrimination for that reason, though, you can’t seek redress at the state level – you have to go through the federal system, which is harder and costlier.
9. Rrgh! Okay, how about Republicans? Is it legal to discriminate against Republicans?
All right, smart-aleck.
10. No, seriously. Can I ban Republicans from eating in my restaurant?
Well…actually, yes. But not because of House Bill 2. Party affiliation has never been a protected class, so technically you’ve always been able to do that.
11. Has anyone tried doing that?
Not to my knowledge. But I think if you ask a Republican, they’ll tell you half of Carrboro’s been doing it for decades.
12. Ha ha.
Hey, you try being a Republican in Carrboro.
13. All right, back to being serious. House Bill 2 bans discrimination on the basis of…what again?
Race, religion, color, national origin, biological sex, and sometimes age and disability.
14. Okay, suppose I get discriminated against for my religion. I can still sue, right?
According to sections 3.2 and 3.3 of the bill, “no person may bring any civil action” if they experience discrimination, even when it comes to the categories where discrimination is explicitly banned. So no, you’re not allowed to sue in state court.
16. That’s bul!&@%*!
Hey, watch it, bub.
17. Are there any other states that do that?
18. Literally the only other state is Mississippi?
Yes. North Carolina and Mississippi are now the only states in the US that do not allow you to sue in state court if you experience discrimination.
19. Sigh. Okay, so what can I do?
Well, you can still sue in federal court, if it’s a category that’s covered by federal law. But again, that’s much harder and way more expensive.
20. Is there anything I can do on the state level?
Yes. House Bill 2 authorizes the state’s Human Relations Commission to “receive, investigate, and conciliate complaints of discrimination in public accommodations.” So if you experience discrimination, you can file a complaint with the Human Relations Commission.
21. Didn’t the General Assembly try to eliminate the Human Relations Commission just last year?
Yes, they did.
Look, why are you focusing on all this discrimination stuff? This bill is about sickos in bathrooms, remember?
23. Okay, fine. Let’s go there. What exactly is House Bill 2 supposed to protect us from?
House Bill 2 protects us from sexual predators who might claim to be “transgender” in order to go into women’s restrooms and commit acts of peeping or even assault.
24. Isn’t there already a law against peeping and assault?
Yes. But sexual predators can’t be trusted to obey the law.
25. But they can be trusted to obey this one?
That’s the idea.
26. So, evil people will break all kinds of laws, but they’ll obey a little sign on the door. Isn’t that basically the same dumb logic conservatives rail against when we talk about gun-free school zones?
Hey, you liberals are being inconsistent too, you know.
27. Fair enough. There are already more than 200 cities in the US that allow people to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, like Charlotte was trying to do. Has this been an issue in any of those cities?
No. There was one guy in Seattle who went into a women’s locker room, apparently as a form of protest (he was dressed as a man and never claimed to be transgender), but other than that, there have been zero reported incidents.
28. So all this is because people are worried that something might happen, even though it’s never happened in 200 other cities?
29. Great. Okay, so let’s talk about enforcement. If all these people want to use the restroom, where will they have to go?
Biologically, those are all women. House Bill 2 requires them to use the ladies’ room.
30. Wait, really? House Bill 2 requires all of these people…
…to use the ladies‘ room?
Yes. But there is a caveat. If you have a sex change, you can go through the process of having your birth certificate altered. So if those people have had their birth certificates altered, they can use the men’s room.
31. But if they haven’t? They’d be required to use the ladies’ room?
Yes. For your safety and protection.
32. So House Bill 2 requires us to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender listed on our birth certificate. Are we supposed to carry our birth certificates around now?
Of course not.
33. So how are we planning on enforcing this?
They didn’t really think that far ahead.
34. Okay, say I’m a woman, and I’m out with my six-year-old son, and one of us has to use the restroom. Can I bring my son in the women’s room?
Yes. As long as your son is under seven, you can bring him into the women’s room.
35. Glad they thought of that, at least.
Oh, they actually didn’t. The original bill didn’t have that exception. It was added as an amendment after a state legislator brought it up.
36. What if my son is eight years old?
Then he’ll have to go into the men’s room by himself, or else wait outside alone while you use the women’s room.
37. I have to leave my son standing there alone outside a public bathroom?
Yes. For his safety and protection.
38. Why did they make seven the cutoff age, anyway?
Why are you asking so many questions?
39. This all seems ridiculous.
Look, we need this to protect privacy. Women have the right to privacy, you know.
40. Women have the right to privacy?
Don’t you go making this a birth control thing.
41. Is House Bill 2 even constitutional?
Good question. In Romer v. Evans (1996), the Supreme Court struck down a Colorado law that banned local governments from protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination. That’s because the law treated gays and lesbians unequally, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The justices said Colorado only needed to provide a “rational basis” for the unequal treatment, but they couldn’t find one.
House Bill 2 basically does the exact same thing that Colorado’s law does, so there’s a chance the Supreme Court will rule the same way. On the other hand, Colorado’s law explicitly singled out gays and lesbians by name, whereas House Bill 2 just omits them from a list of protected classes. So the Court may rule differently here. (Two other states, Arkansas and Tennessee, also have similar laws that ban local governments from protecting gays and lesbians.)
Either way, there will definitely be a lot of litigation over this, and the state will have to pay a lot of money to defend it in court.
42. My tax dollars, you mean.
43. Is there anything good about this bill?
Why yes. House Bill 2 establishes a uniform statewide anti-discrimination policy, so the law is now exactly the same from city to city.
44. What’s the benefit of that?
45. What else does the bill do?
Glad you asked. We’ve covered Part 1, which deals with bathrooms, and Part 3, the anti-discrimination stuff. I haven’t even mentioned Part 2, which bans local governments from passing living wage ordinances or regulating hours, benefits, and a bunch of other stuff.
46. “Bunch of other stuff”?
Yes, “such as the wage levels of employees, hours of labor, payment of earned wages, benefits, leave, or well-being of minors in the workforce.”
47. What does any of that have to do with sickos in bathrooms?
48. Is House Bill 2 more sweeping than expected?
No. Let’s be honest, we all knew they were going to do this.
49. Will the General Assembly ever call a special session to bring teacher salaries up to the national average?
Ha! Good one.
50. Anything else I need to know?
Yes. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.
EDIT: Thanks for all your comments! I’ve edited the FAQ list to fix one error: a reader pointed out that HB2 actually does make an exception (sections 1.2d and 1.3d) for caregivers who enter an opposite-gender restroom to assist someone with a disability.
Another reader noted that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that the federal ban on sex-based discrimination also includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity – so if you’re fired for being gay or transgender, you can (currently) file a claim on the federal level with the EEOC. That’s a matter of statutory interpretation, though, not the law itself: federal law still doesn’t specify sexual orientation or gender identity as protected categories, so the EEOC could change its interpretation at a later date (say, with the next presidential administration). This is also a subject of ongoing litigation, so a court could overrule the EEOC in the future too.
In any event, the EEOC only covers employment – so regardless of how they happen to interpret the law, businesses can still refuse to serve you for being gay, anywhere in the state of North Carolina.http://chapelboro.com/featured/facts-and-myths-that-mccrory-forgot-about-house-bill-2
On Wednesday, March 23, the North Carolina General Assembly rushed back to session and passed House Bill 2, a law designed to overturn Charlotte’s recent anti-discrimination ordinance.
What does it do? Well, among other things, the bill makes it legal to discriminate against gays, lesbians, and military veterans; it bans cities from regulating child labor; and it prohibits you from suing in state court if you’re discriminated against. (Instead you’ll have to go through the state’s Human Relations Commission, which the GA nearly eliminated just last year.)
But forget all that! The real purpose of House Bill 2 is to protect your safety – by prohibiting men from going into women’s restrooms, and by keeping women out of the men’s room. That was the thing that got everyone upset about Charlotte’s ordinance, after all – one provision that would have allowed transgender individuals to use the bathroom that corresponded with their gender identity, rather than their “actual” biological sex.
And I mean a lot of people were upset about that. What? Men dressing up as women, going into the women’s room? And Charlotte wants to allow that? Outrageous!
And the NCGA heard your outcry. So now we have House Bill 2, which requires everyone to use the bathroom that corresponds to their “biological sex,” or the gender that’s listed on their birth certificate.
Makes sense, right?
Problem solved? Easy fix?
Let’s find out!
You are hereby deputized as an agent of the North Carolina State Bathroom Patrol! Your job is to enforce House Bill 2 – by steering the men to the men’s room and the women to the women’s room. Remember, we’re talking biological sex here: it’s not what you look like or how you dress, it’s the gender on your birth certificate that matters.
All right, ten people are heading your way. No time to check birth certificates, but this should be easy. All you have to do is separate the men from the women. Go!
Time’s up! Any trouble?
If House Bill 2 makes any sense at all as a public safety measure, this quiz should have been super easy. Men are men and women are women, right?
Well, as it happens, this quiz was super easy. Turns out, the boys and girls had already separated themselves!
The top four photos are all biological men. First guy up there in the denim shirt is male model Ben Jordan. Looking good! Right under Jordan is New York Times bestselling author Janet Mock, followed by internationally-renowned model Ines Rau. They’re both transgender women. The guy in the bumblebee shirt is Brooklyn Beckham, son of David and Victoria. One hundred percent man right there!
The bottom six photos are all biological women. In the red hoodie is YouTube celebrity Jamie Raines, aka “Jammidodger.” After that is former Canadian first lady Margaret Trudeau, the mother of current Canadian PM Justin. That steamy-looking tough guy underneath Trudeau? That’s transgender fitness model Ben Melzer. Better make sure to send him to the women’s room, right? After Melzer is a woman you might recognize, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney. (Maybe you know her better as George Clooney’s wife.) Following Clooney is another fitness model, Aydian Dowling; last year he became the first trans man to make the cover of Men’s Health magazine. And finally – time warp! That last picture is actually YouTube celebrity Jamie Raines again, after his transition from female to male.
How’d you do?
If House Bill 2 makes sense, then you should have gotten 10 out of 10, no problem. The underlying assumption behind House Bill 2 is that men and women are profoundly different, totally easy to tell apart, and there are no blurry lines or fluidity between the genders at all.
But I bet you didn’t get 10 out of 10, did you?
And even the ones you got right, I bet a couple of those were lucky guesses?
That’s the problem with the “biological sex” approach. House Bill 2, and the lawmakers behind it, don’t really believe there’s any such thing as being “transgender.” It’s men and women, they think, and that’s it.
Trouble is, there is such a thing as being transgender.
There are blurry lines.
There is fluidity.
And if we ignore that fact – as House Bill 2 does – then all of a sudden we find ourselves waking up in a state that forces sexy supermodel Ines Rau to go into the bathroom with a bunch of guys…and sends muscle-bear Ben Melzer into the women’s room to hang out with the ladies.
Because that’s what House Bill 2 does, y’all. And that’s the best thing it has going for it.
(Photo Credits: Ben Jordan via W Magazine, Janet Mock via janetmock.com, Ines Rau via Oob Magazine, Brooklyn Beckham via Man About Town, Jamie Raines via YouTube, Margaret Trudeau via Arlen Redekop/Vancouver Sun, Ben Melzer via Instagram, Amal Clooney via Jason Merritt, Aydian Dowling via Men’s Health, and Jamie Raines via YouTube.)http://chapelboro.com/featured/think-youve-got-what-it-takes-to-enforce-house-bill-2-take-this-easy-quiz