With HB2, The Hits Keep On Coming. How Should We Respond?

Last weekend, the Triangle hosted the 32nd annual North Carolina Pride Festival – a celebration of North Carolina’s LGBT community, in a year when HB2 has made “North Carolina” synonymous in many eyes with “anti-gay.”

When NC Pride first began, back in 1985, being anti-gay wasn’t so much of a black eye – economically speaking, it was more dangerous to be perceived as pro-gay. But some things have changed: the passage of House Bill 2 in March sparked a backlash and a boycott that has already cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. (And tourism officials, like Laurie Paolicelli of the Orange County Visitors Bureau, say the worst of it is likely yet to come.)

Ironically, though, most of those lost dollars have come in the form of canceled concerts, canceled conventions, canceled sporting events, canceled business expansions, and canceled related travel plans. And all of that primarily affects North Carolina’s urban centers, Charlotte, the Triad, the Triangle, Wilmington and Asheville – the most LGBT-friendly, anti-HB2 places in the state.

As a result, the leaders of those communities have been in a quandary all year. How do you support those who have spoken out so strongly against a law you find abhorrent – while also lamenting the lost events, the lost opportunities, the lost jobs and the lost revenue? How do you promote business, travel, tourism and the arts in Chapel Hill, to people who are denouncing and boycotting North Carolina?

That’s the challenge facing Laurie Paolicelli at the Orange County Visitors Bureau. Prior to HB2’s passage, the OCVB launched a national campaign to attract LGBT tourists to the Chapel Hill area – and Paolicelli says it’s still generating interest, in spite of the state’s reputation.


From the Orange County Visitors Bureau’s new LGBT campaign.

Still, Paolicelli says, HB2 has cost our community a great deal – starting with more than $1.2 million in lost revenue from canceled conferences and travel plans, including the cancellation of a Public Management Research Association conference at UNC that alone would have generated close to half a million dollars. Paolicelli says Orange County also suffers when other communities in the area are hit: hotels fill up in Chapel Hill when Pinehurst holds golf tournaments, so Chapel Hill will almost certainly be affected by the loss of championship events in Durham (ACC baseball) and Cary (NCAA championships).

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Paolicelli says there’s one significant bit of good news: the North American Travel Journalists Association is going ahead with their planned conference in Chapel Hill next May (though not without some internal debate), and having all those travel journalists in town will give Orange County a chance to showcase its LGBT-friendly vibe and its commitment to social justice. But she says that’s not likely to offset all the losses from HB2 – not just from previously-scheduled travel plans being canceled, but from all the people and all the organizations who won’t even consider Orange County as a destination in the first place.

How many people is that? How many organizations? It’s impossible to say.

Laurie Paolicelli discussed the effects of HB2 on WCHL with Aaron Keck.


The dilemma also hits those who oppose HB2 and support the fight against it, even though they’d personally benefit from the events that are being lost. Of course that includes the owners and managers of hotels and other tourist-friendly businesses – but it also includes Tar Heel student-athletes, who are losing nearby championship games.

UNC senior Ezra Baeli-Wang is a member of the Tar Heel fencing team, the president of the ACC’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), and the co-chair of the SAAC at UNC-Chapel Hill. Like all UNC student-athletes, Baeli-Wang was directly affected, in a negative way, by the NCAA’s decision to pull championship events from North Carolina – but he’s also been vocally opposed to House Bill 2, and supportive of the ongoing efforts to fight back against it. This is what he wrote, in an open letter to the campus community following the NCAA’s decision:

As a Tar Heel, this decision is bittersweet. It is heartening to see the governing body in collegiate athletics take a stand against state-sanctioned discrimination and recognize its primary commitment to the safety and inclusion of all the people who make college sports possible. On the other hand, as an athlete, it is devastating to see my teammates and peers lose the opportunity to compete for their friends and family in their home state. This is only the latest in a string of injustices that HB2 has inflicted on UNC’s and North Carolina’s community, and by no means the most egregious. This bill is damaging for everyone—for businesses, for families, for teachers, coaches, students and student-athletes, and especially for all those whom it oppresses. It opposes everything that Carolina stands for, and, in the words of ACC Commissioner John Swofford, it is “counter to basic human rights.”

On behalf of Carolina Athletics, and from one Tar Heel to another, HB2 must be seen for what it is: an act of violence against our community, an attack on the core values of the University of North Carolina. To enforce this law, or even to continue to remain silent, would be to turn our backs on each other. For us, that is not an option. So in closing, I want to reaffirm that Carolina will not waver from its commitment to fairness, inclusion, and ensuring that all who visit this campus for athletic events or otherwise are, and always will be, welcome.

Ezra Baeli-Wang spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


Baeli-Wang says he’s received support for his stance from other Tar Heel student-athletes – as well as high-ranking administrators at UNC-Chapel Hill, including Chancellor Carol Folt and AD Bubba Cunningham. (UNC’s official position, via system president Margaret Spellings, is merely that the NCAA and ACC’s decisions are “disappointing,” because the move penalizes UNC even though it’s not enforcing HB2. Baeli-Wang’s statement echoes that sentiment, but takes a clearer stance against the bill itself.)

In the end, though, one thing is clear: LGBT people across the nation may be steering clear of North Carolina, but HB2 hasn’t silenced the LGBT community that’s living in North Carolina right now. Thousands of people lined the streets in Durham last weekend and cheered for the largest NC Pride parade in the event’s history – a parade made all the more relevant by the ongoing fight over HB2.


Federal Court to Hear Arguments Regarding Injunction for House Bill 2

North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 will be argued before United States District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder on Monday, August 1.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina and Lambda Legal filed a motion in May requesting a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of HB2 across the state.

Those groups have argued that North Carolina’s House Bill 2 constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex by requiring transgender individuals to use the bathroom and changing facility that corresponds with their birth certificate rather than their gender identity and should therefore not be implemented across the state.

The three advocacy groups and the law firm of Jenner & Block are representing six LGBT North Carolinians and members of the ACLU of North Carolina in their federal court challenge of HB2.

The groups released a joint statement on Thursday:

“Every day that House Bill 2 remains on the books, transgender North Carolinians suffer irreparable harm at work, in school, and in other public places, simply because they want to use public facilities safely just like everyone else but this hateful law prevents them from doing so. We are glad our clients will finally have their day in court, and we hope that this discriminatory law’s days are numbered.”

The lawsuit challenging House Bill 2 was brought soon after the North Carolina General Assembly met in a special session to pass the legislation in late March.

The United States Department of Justice is also in a legal battle with North Carolina over the law and filed a motion asking for a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the law last week.


Want To Honor Orlando? Fight Homophobia.

Last Friday was the 1-year anniversary of the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. A white punk walked into an historic black church and killed nine people, because he was a racist.

Last week, we remembered that day. All over the country, there were ceremonies and there were speeches. It was a somber occasion.

But this week, I want to remember a different anniversary.

Listen to Aaron’s commentary:


This isn’t just the 1-year anniversary of a senseless massacre. This is also the 1-year anniversary of something positive: a national conversation that we all had, together, as a people, about racism, why it still exists, and what we can do to eradicate it. What we can do to make the world a slightly better place.

One year ago, in the face of hatred, we sat down together and we had that conversation.

And we did something. We looked all over the South and we saw our governments still flying the banner of racism, the Confederate battle flag. We went all over the South and we pulled that banner down. We did it to send a message: this country is not going to tolerate racism. We’re not going to treat racism as a valid argument. We’re not going to give it a microphone. And we’re sure as hell not going to fly its victory banner over our state house lawns.

What did that accomplish?

Did it end racism forever? No.

Did it bring back the nine people who died? No.

Is there anything we could have done that would have ended racism forever or bring back the nine people who died? No.

But we had that national conversation anyway. Why? Because it was the right thing to do.

And we tore down that victory banner anyway. Why? Because it was the right message to send.

It made our world a slightly better place.

Ten days ago, a man walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and opened fire on the crowd. Forty-nine people were killed. Dozens more were injured. And if you think there were only 100 victims of this attack, you are wrong: all over the country, LGBT people everywhere are still hurting.

This was an attack of hatred, and this was an attack of homophobia. We know that this is the case. There isn’t any doubt or debate.

One year ago, we responded to a murdering racist by having a national conversation on racism.

Where is the national conversation on homophobia today?

Read the news reports about Orlando. Read the speeches. People are going out of their way to avoid talking about Orlando as an act of homophobic violence. The silence is conspicuous.

It’s not just conservatives. Our own Congressman, David Price, has always been a vocal advocate for the LGBT community. But today he made a statement when he went to join the sit-in on the House floor: a whole page of words about Orlando, and not even one hint of a mention of who was targeted. He’s not even close to being the only one. It’s been standard operating procedure, for nearly two weeks.

Imagine talking about Charleston without mentioning racism.

Which isn’t to say we’re not talking about Orlando. We’re sure having a big ol’ fight about guns. Democratic Senators are staging filibusters, Democratic House members are holding a sit-in. We need to talk about guns, they say. On the other side of the aisle, Republicans say no, it’s Muslims we ought to be talking about. Ban the guns. Ban the Muslims. Ban the guns.

Who is talking about homophobia right now?

Everyone’s excited because Democrats are trying to stop the haters from getting guns.

Who is talking about how we can stop there from being hate in the first place?

Nobody. Instead we’re making excuses.

“Gosh, we can’t ever eliminate hatred, so I guess there’s just nothing we can do.”


It’s true, we can’t ever eliminate hatred.

But we can fight it.

We can strike back.

We can make it clear, with our words, with our actions, and with our laws, that this country will not tolerate homophobia.

And in doing so we can make the world a slightly better place.

Aaron Keck spoke Wednesday with Chapel Hill writer Steven Petrow, who writes the “Civilities” column for the Washington Post.


I know we can do it because we’ve done it before. This week is the one-year anniversary. This week we celebrate the one-year anniversary of a national conversation on racism, a conversation that led to action and real change. Last year people who spent years waving the Confederate flag were apologizing. They had contributed to a culture. They helped make it seem okay to be a racist. They changed. People changed.

Who is apologizing today?

Who is searching their souls?

Who is asking themselves, did I do enough? Did I contribute to a hateful culture? Have my words or my actions made it seem okay to hate on gay people? Have I told my kids I love them no matter what? Have I supported laws designed to make it harder to be gay? Have I supported laws designed to make it easier to be a homophobe?

Read Steven Petrow’s column on “straight-washing” this week in the Washington Post.

Last year we tore down the Confederate flag because it was the symbol of racism.

What is the symbol of homophobia?

Democrats are in Washington talking about guns. And hey, that’s great – but that’s not the symbol. That’s not fighting back against homophobia.

You want to fight back against homophobia? You want to honor the victims of Orlando?

Forget the gun control. Forget the gun rights. Forget immigration. And for God’s sake forget Muslims.

You want to fight back, here’s what you can do:

Add the four words.

“Sexual,” “orientation,” “gender,” and “identity.”

Amend our federal and state anti-discrimination laws to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories.

(Don’t buy the “religious freedom” argument – truth is, that argument’s always been complete BS. We already ban discrimination on the basis of religion.)

This is long overdue. We should have done it years ago. The fact that we haven’t done it yet is unconscionable. The fact that people are still opposing it is ridiculous.

Let’s do it now. In the wake of Orlando, let’s do it now.

I want one bill introduced in Congress to add the four words to our federal anti-discrimination law.

I want Chris Murphy to filibuster until it gets a vote.

I want John Lewis to sit on the House floor and refuse to budge until it gets passed.

In Raleigh, I want our state legislators to introduce a bill adding sexual orientation and gender identity to our state-wide anti-discrimination law.

And make Republicans get in front of the cameras and the microphones and explain to the American people why they don’t want to fight back against the hatred that fueled the murder of 49 people.

Conservatives have been saying this all week: “We don’t have a gun problem, we have a people problem!”

Of course they’re only saying that because they don’t want to talk about guns. They have zero intention of discussing the “people problem,” they have zero intention of addressing the “people problem” – and when it comes to anti-gay hatred, the sad truth is a lot of conservatives don’t even really believe we have a people problem.

But you know what, they’re right.

We do have a people problem. We have a really, really big people problem.

But it’s not enough to just say it and move on with your day.

It’s not enough to sigh and say “what are you gonna do?”

It’s not enough to offer “thoughts and prayers” for the victims of an anti-gay massacre, then go on demonizing LGBT people as sinful and twisted and evil.

Let’s make conservatives put their money where their mouth is.

And while we’re at it, let’s put our money where our mouth is too.

Yes, we have a people problem.

What are we going to do about it?

It’s time for a national conversation on homophobia. It’s time to act. Not just to keep guns away from the haters – we need to strike back against hate in the first place.

Repeal House Bill 2.

Add the four words to our anti-discrimination law.

You personally are not a state legislator? Fine. Be a vocal ally. Speak out against anti-gay hate. Tell your kids you love them no matter what. Tell your kids you love everybody no matter what.

One year ago this week, we fought back against hatred. Let’s do the same thing this week.

We’re not going to fix the problem. We’re not going to cure the whole world.

But let’s do what we can, today and every day, to make this world a slightly better place.


Bello, Bella, Bellx: On Love And Orlando

I want to begin with an apology.

On air this week, I’ve been talking about the Orlando shooting as an act of homophobic violence against LGBT people. I want to emphasize that fact, because there are a lot of people out there who’d prefer to ignore the homophobia. There are some who have spent their lives attacking gays and lesbians who are now trying to make this their issue by making it all about Islam, attacking Muslims, and trying to convince us they’re the ones who really care about LGBT people when we all know they don’t. Bull. No, this was about homophobia, and that’s what I’ve been trying to emphasize all week.

Listen to Aaron’s commentary:


But there’s one very important detail I haven’t mentioned. And that is the fact that this murder didn’t just take place in a gay nightclub – it took place in a gay nightclub on Latin Night. The vast majority of the people who were killed were Latino and Latina.

I didn’t mention that fact at first because I thought it was a coincidence. I assumed a guy planning to attack a gay club probably isn’t going to care what’s happening that particular night.

But now we know what we didn’t know before: Omar Mateen, apparently, went to the Pulse nightclub numerous times. He was apparently struggling with his own sexuality too. I don’t know why he did what he did or why he did it when he did it – but yes, he probably knew it was Latin night when he went in there.

So I apologize. I’ve been struggling with Orlando for the last three days, but I’m white. God, Latino people, Latina people, who are lesbian, gay, bi, trans – they’ve got it that much worse right now. This hit them. This was an attack on them. And we need to call that out too.

There have been vigils all over our community this week. I’ve missed some because I was on the air, but I made it to the one Tuesday in Durham. There were hundreds of people on the street. There was no fear, by the way. Anger, but no fear. We’re past fear. And we’re past hate. Hundreds of people, and everyone was together. White people, black people, brown people. Christians, Muslims, atheists.

Orlando vigil in Durham 061416

Down the road in Greensboro, Donald Trump was speaking in the Coliseum. Trying to make this his issue. Trying to convince people that the best way to respond to fear and hate is to stir up more fear and more hate.

There are people who believe him.

But the people at the vigil in Durham, and the people at the vigils in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, and the people at the vigils all over America, the people who actually care about the LGBT community – we know better.

This is not the time to ban Islam.

This is not the time to end immigration.

This is sure as hell not the time to build a wall between us and the Latin world.

This is not the time for more fear and more hate.

This is the time to double down on love.

You want to fight fear and hatred?

Double down on love…

I learned something in Durham last night. There was a Spanish translator there. And he was trying very hard to be gender-neutral. When you’re speaking Spanish, see, it’s not easy to be gender-neutral. Every noun is gendered, every adjective is a little different depending on whether you’re talking about a masculine thing or a feminine thing. The word “beautiful,” in Spanish, is “bello” – if it’s masculine. If it’s feminine, it’s “bella.” If you’re trying to be totally gender-free, you have to invent a third word, “bell-x.”

It’s very confusing.

But when you put it all together, when you’re truly gender-inclusive…

Then it turns into something really beautiful.

“Bello, bella, bellx.”

This translator used that phrase, several times.

“Bello, bella, bellx.”

It’s like a mantra.

“Bello, bella, bellx.”

That’s the phrase that was running through my head when I was listening to the speakers.

There were two in particular, two LGBT Muslims – devout Muslims who follow the faith, whose families follow the faith, who have struggled with their sexuality, and who have reconciled their sexuality with their Muslim faith, because you don’t have to choose one or the other any more than you have to choose between being gay and being a Christian.

They stood up at that vigil last night and witnessed. They preached to the LGBT community and the Muslim community that it’s not only possible to come together, it’s right to come together. Islam compels us to love each other, just as Christianity compels us to love each other. There are lots and lots of people out there who think otherwise, but those people are wrong and we need to keep telling the world they’re wrong.

Bello, bella, bellx.

Donald Trump wants to stop immigration. He wants to harass Muslims and Latino/Latina people.

Here in North Carolina, the General Assembly is still trying to keep transgender people out of bathrooms, to allow people to kick you out of their stores or restaurants if they don’t like who you choose to love.

In Florida there are still dozens of people in the hospital, some of them still in grave condition. If this had happened two years ago, their partners wouldn’t have been allowed to visit them in the hospital. If they died, their partners wouldn’t have had any control over their funeral arrangements.

Their partners still aren’t allowed to give blood, even now.

I know people today who are still in the closet, who are afraid to come out because they’re afraid of being disowned by their own families. They’re not wrong to worry. I know people who did come out and did get disowned. Disowned by the people who are out there now trying to make Orlando their issue, trying to convince you that it’s all about the Muslims, it’s all about the foreigners, stop the Muslims, stop the foreigners.

Those people don’t care about the LGBT community.

We need to be listening to the people who do.

Most of us have probably heard Mr. Rogers’ quote about helpers. When he was a boy and he saw scary things on the news, tragedies and disasters and horrific acts of violence, he said this:

“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

Who are the helpers now?

Who are the people out there working to make this better?

They are the people who are actively working to promote tolerance and acceptance and love in communities and cultures where fear and hate are in danger of taking over.

They are the LGBT people and their allies in the Muslim community, who are speaking out right now against fear and hate.

They are the Christian leaders who are standing up in the pulpits and declaring, loudly, that God made Adam and Steve just as much as he made Adam and Eve, because God made everybody and everybody is equally worthy of God’s love.

They are Republicans, like the lieutenant governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, who got up at a vigil on Monday night and told the crowd his heart had changed. These brave folks are standing up to the Donald Trumps of the world and saying, as Spencer Cox did, “There is only one way for us to come together. We must learn to truly love one another.”

They are athletes speaking out against homophobia in the locker rooms.

They are public figures speaking out against homophobia in movies, on TV, in the streets.

And they are ordinary people, like you and me, who are doing their little part every single day to make this a slightly more loving world.

Because that is the way we prevent another Orlando. That is the way we fight this.

No more fear. No more hate.

Double down on love.

Bello. Bella. Bellx.


How Do We Change After Orlando?

Throughout our history, it has always been standard practice to demonize minority groups as a danger to public safety. We said black people were going to attack your wives and daughters. Immigrants were going to bring crime and disease. Gay people were all pedophiles. Muslims were all terrorists.

The truth of the matter is, minority groups have not been the perpetrators. Minority groups have been the VICTIMS. We stoked up fear of black people by claiming they were going to attack your wives and daughters…and at the same time we were slaughtering black people by the hundreds for trying to cast a vote or own a business. We cheated immigrants out of their wages so badly they were forced to live in dirty slums, then we pointed at the dirty slums and said, “See? That’s how immigrants live.” Muslims get harassed and targeted every time they step out the door, but whenever we see a Muslim we start worrying about…OUR safety.

Listen to Aaron Keck’s commentary


In North Carolina we just passed a big ol’ law to keep transgender people out of the bathrooms. Transgender people don’t commit attacks in bathrooms. Transgender people GET ATTACKED in bathrooms. Sixty-eight percent of transgender people say they’ve been verbally harassed in public restrooms. This is a survey from the Williams Institute. Nine percent say they’ve been physically assaulted. Calls to suicide hotlines have skyrocketed. We are literally harassing innocent people to the point of suicide because we’ve got it in our heads that THEY might be threatening US.

In Orlando, it was the gay community. Let’s talk about the room where this happened. Pulse is a gay nightclub. When Omar Whatshisname walked into that club, he was going in there to shoot up a room full of gays. This was a homophobic attack. I have to repeat this: this was a homophobic attack. I feel like I have to repeat this, because if you looked at the front page of USA Today this morning, you had to scour all over before you found any reference whatsoever to the fact that this was an act of terror that targeted LGBT people. If you go on Fox News, you’ll have to wait a while before anyone acknowledges the fact that this was a homophobic act. My friends on Facebook are going on and on about this attack and a lot of THEM are going WAY out of their way to avoid mentioning homophobia. It’s despicable. I see people on Facebook who say they’re angry because now politicians are talking about gun control…as if THAT’S the thing to be angry about, when 50 people are lying dead in Orlando. “Don’t care about four dozen dead people, the worst thing is that this might slightly inconvenience ME.” Now THAT’s truly despicable. But from liberals, people who should be allies, THEY’re going around in circles to avoid saying homophobia too. I don’t get it. In England a gay commentator just walked off the  set of a live TV show because the two people he was on with – both of them liberals! they were talking about gun control – just refused to acknowledge homophobia. I don’t understand it.

And it’s not like this is an isolated incident. This isn’t the first mass homicide at a gay club. 1973, New Orleans, a place called the UpStairs Lounge. Thirty-two people died. Have you ever heard of this? Thirty-two people died. It didn’t make the news. They were all gay people. Nobody cared. The local papers mentioned it, but they carefully avoided saying it was a gay club. One minister held a small worship service to remember the victims; he got hate mail for doing even that. It happened on the last day of Pride Weekend. June 24, 1973. We’re coming up on the 33rd anniversary.

And that’s just the biggest one. I don’t have enough time to list all the police raids, all the random attacks of gays and lesbians just outside gay clubs. And those are gay clubs. In gay neighborhoods, usually. These are safe places for gays and lesbians. In many cases, just about the only safe places out there.

Dave Holmes just wrote this in Esquire, and thanks to Mark McCurry for finding it. I’m going to quote it:

“The FBI defines terrorism as ‘violent acts or acts dangerous to human life…that appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.’ LGBT people around the world have been intimidated and coerced all our lives. Each one of us has moved to kiss our boyfriend on the cheek in public, or reached for our wife’s hand as we walked down the street, and each one of us has pulled back.

We have all needed to read the room, to think about how we present ourselves to the world, to determine how much of ourselves we are free to express. Each one of us, at least once, has worried whether we were coming off too gay.

Too many of us have been terrorized by actual violent acts, but each of us—when we are called names, when we hear a gay joke and nobody speaks up, when we watch a dozen presidential hopefuls from one of our country’s two political parties promise to amend the Constitution to steal our civil rights—has been subject to an act that is dangerous to human life. We all have scars on our souls from it. All of us.”

Every one of those words is true. We live in a homophobic society. This is a real problem in Islam…and we need to call out the fact that Islam has a problem with homophobia, and we need to be praising and supporting and standing up for those Muslim organizations that are out there right now working WITHIN Islam to promote tolerance and acceptance for LGBT people, because they’re out there and they’re doing everything they can. But it’s not just Islam. It’s a culture of masculinity that sees LGBT people as a threat. It’s fundamentalists in EVERY religion, and the politicians who pander to them. It’s even liberals who won’t talk about this as an attack on LGBT people. I don’t get why.

Let me be angry for two seconds. First of all, some people on social media have said this already, but I want to reiterate: after what happened in Orlando, I don’t want to hear another word about gays or lesbians or transgender people being some kind of threat to public safety. We’re done with that debate.  If after this weekend it isn’t blindingly obvious who is and who isn’t a threat to public safety, there’s no point in talking any more.

And one more thing. After what happened in Orlando, I also don’t want to hear any more about how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two sides of the same coin and they’re completely indistinguishable from each other. We’re done with that too. One of those two candidates has gone out of his way to attack minority groups and stir up fear of minorities and hatred of minorities, and the other candidate has not done that. If you still think there is absolutely no difference whatsoever between those two candidates, after Orlando, then you do not care about gay people. Period.

And I’m going to be angry for one more second, if you’ll indulge me: if you’re wondering what you can do to respond to this tragedy, the Red Cross blood donation center is located at 4737 University Drive in Durham. Visit RedCross.org for hours of operation.

And hey, give an extra pint for me, because I’m not allowed to donate blood.

Okay, I’m done being angry.

Bello, Bella, Bellx: On Love And Orlando

Let’s talk about guns.

Now, I’m not a big supporter of gun control. There are people who think gun control will solve all our problems, and I’m not one of them. Whenever a mass shooting happens, there are people who immediately start posting on Facebook about gun control, and I always roll my eyes about that. Here are some relevant statistics: whatever we’re doing in this country to prevent crime, it’s actually working. The violent crime rate in the US has been dropping steadily since the late 60s. The murder rate in the US has been dropping steadily for even longer. Statistically, we are safer now than we have been for multiple generations. So whenever you hear some politician or some media talking head going on about crime, and you think, “oh God, there’s so much crime out there, it’s getting worse every day, we’ve got to DO something” – that’s BS. We’re actually not doing too bad.

Another relevant statistic about guns: what actually increases or decreases the crime rate? Does gun control make us safer? Are we safer if there are MORE guns? There are a lot of factors that affect the crime rate, so it’s not easy to tell. But last year there was a massive international study of gun laws, different gun laws from around the world, and here’s what it found: gun control laws CAN reduce the crime rate… but in order to make a difference, it’s got to be really strict gun control. I’m talking banning guns altogether, like they did in the UK or Australia. THAT level of gun control will reduce the crime rate, because then there won’t be any guns around to commit crimes with. “Oh, if guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns!” No, if guns are outlawed, then even the outlaws won’t have guns, because they’ll be almost impossible to come by. Every gun that’s out there in society was legally manufactured and legally purchased somewhere along the way. This guy in Orlando legally purchased all his weapons. Next time there’s a mass shooting, maybe they’ll be stolen weapons, but they’ll have been stolen from someone who bought them legally. And that happens pretty frequently. We get the crime report from the Orange County Sheriff’s office every day. Lots of times there aren’t any crimes to report, it’s very nice. But whenever there’s a breaking and entering, whenever there’s a robbery, more often than not, it’s the guns that get stolen. Guns and electronics and hardware. That’s how criminals get guns. Either they buy them legally or they steal them from other people who did. Ban the legal sale, you take the guns off the market; you take the guns off the market, then criminals will have no way of obtaining them, at least not without going through really extreme channels. You won’t eliminate gun crime, but you’ll reduce it. Gun rights advocates point to the Paris attacks and say “look! Gun control doesn’t work!” But that’s one incident. You don’t look at one incident, you look at the overall numbers. Yes, the Paris attacks still happened, but the overall rate of gun crime in France is way way lower than it is in the US.

Now, having said that, should we impose strict gun control here? I don’t think we should. That international study says we won’t actually make much of a dent in gun crime unless we do something really drastic, like banning handguns altogether. Would that be a good public policy move? Maybe, maybe not…but in this country it doesn’t matter, because I think we can mostly agree that that level of gun control would be unconstitutional. The second amendment does protect the individual right to bear arms. It does NOT mean we can’t have any gun control at all…we CAN have reasonable gun control policies, that doesn’t conflict with the Second Amendment…but it would definitely conflict with the second amendment if we tried enacting the level of gun control we would need to enact in order to have a big impact on the crime rate. So in general, I think gun control is a red herring.

Having said that: we need to ban the AR-15. We need to do it now. NOT because banning the AR-15 will reduce the overall crime rate – because it won’t – but because banning the AR-15 will make it a hell of a lot harder for domestic terrorists to kill dozens of people in one go. And I say this NOT because I disagree with the National Rifle Association, but precisely because I AGREE with them.

Remember the line that Wayne LaPierre’s PR people came up with after Sandy Hook: “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Which is an awfully pessimistic worldview, first off, because it assumes we’re always inevitably going to be surrounded by bad guys with guns. I don’t believe that. I think rather than focusing on how to stop bad guys with guns, we ought to be focused on how to PREVENT there from BEING bad guys with guns in the first place. But more on that in a minute. Suppose we have a bad guy with a gun. And suppose the NRA is right. The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun! Well, if that’s the case, the problem with the AR-15 (and weapons like it) is that the bad guy can get off dozens of rounds before the good guy even has a chance to react! 800 rounds a minute, by the way, that’s the potential speed of an AR-15. Bad guy can fire 10 rounds in a single second before the good guy even notices anything’s gone wrong. Good guy notices, that’s another second, another 10 rounds. Good guy reaches for his gun, that’s another second, another 10 rounds. Good guy pulls out his gun, that’s another second, another 10 rounds. Good guy fires, one more second, another 10 rounds. Supposing the good guy is an action-movie hero and he’s able to hit the bad guy and completely neutralize him in one shot, that’s 50 rounds he’s already fired in five seconds…and we’re assuming none of those 50 shots hit the good guy.

So yes, I think we ought to ban the AR-15…and I say this as someone who does NOT believe gun control is the answer. Now, there are people who are worried about tyranny. There are people who worry that government will run amok and start trying to terrorize us, and in that case the Second Amendment is our last line of defense. But here’s the thing: that ship has sailed. The same people who run around yelling about how we need the Second Amendment to defend ourselves against government thugs, those are all the same people who have gone out of their way to give the government as much money as possible to buy nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, conventional weapons, smart bombs, stealth fighters, surveillance technology, drones, guns, tanks, tear gas, riot gear, sniper rifles, training for special ops, and military bases all over the country. These are the same people who yell and scream whenever anyone even suggests we THINK about cutting any of this funding. And these are the same people who think their Second Amendment is going to protect them against government tyranny. That may once have been the case. But believe me, if the government ever decides to turn tyrannical – when they show up on your doorstep at 3 in the morning with a hundred thousand troops and tanks and guns and drones and gas and everything else, trust me, your little gun is not going to do squat against that. And if you don’t believe me, get on a plane, fly up to Idaho, go to Ruby Ridge, and ask Randy how he’s doing.

I hate to break it to you, but the Second Amendment isn’t going to protect us against government tyranny. There’s only one thing…there’s only ONE THING… that can protect us from government tyranny. And that is education. Civics education. Values education. Teaching our kids values from the beginning, so when they grow up and take over positions of power, they’ll have the moral capacity NOT to abuse it. We need to teach EVERYBODY… every child…to respect human beings. To respect human decency. To care about human rights. To care about the Constitution. To see each other as HUMAN BEINGS…rather than objects.

WEB DuBois, in “The Souls of Black Folk,” talked about how people never saw him as a human being. They saw him as a Problem. Whenever they talked to him about race or asked him about race, it was always the same underlying question: “How does it feel to be a problem?”

When we fail to see each other’s humanity, that’s when we start to kill. When you look at a transgender person and see not a PERSON but a THREAT…when you look at a Muslim and see not a PERSON but a THREAT. Or maybe not even a threat. When you look at a woman and see not a PERSON but a GENDER. When you look at a gay man and see not a PERSON but a SEXUAL ORIENTATION. We OBJECTIFY each other. It’s common. We do it all the time. We identify each other with the thing that sets us apart. We think of Barack Obama as BLACK before we think of him as MALE, and we think of Hillary Clinton as FEMALE before we think of her as WHITE. Why? Because in the group of presidential hopefuls, it’s mostly white men. Obama stands out because he’s…black. Clinton stands out because she’s…a woman. We do this with each other all the time.

But when we fail to see past the distinction…when the distinction is all we see…that’s when we stop seeing other people as PEOPLE and start seeing them as OBJECTS. This terrorist who walked into Pulse on Saturday night, he didn’t think he was walking into a room full of people. He believed he was walking into a room full of GAY. And he believed there was a fundamental distinction. That’s why he bought the gun. That’s why he walked into the club. That’s why he killed fifty people.

And at the end of the day, THAT is the thing we have to fight, first before anything. This is not about guns. This is not about Muslims. This isn’t even about gays and lesbians. Before anything else, this is about us…looking at each other and failing to see humanity. This is about us looking at each other and seeing not people, but objects and categories. This is about us being so afraid of each other that we feel the need to arm ourselves whenever we walk out the door. This is about us looking at a foreign person and seeing a FOREIGNER rather than a person. This is about us looking at a gay person and seeing a GAY rather than a person. This is about us looking at a black person and seeing a BLACK rather than a person.

This is that we’ve got to change.

How do we change it?

We change it by getting involved in our world. We change it by joining local organizations, volunteering, helping other people who are different from ourselves. We change it by teaching our kids about human decency and human rights. We change it by teaching our kids to love. We change it by being loving ourselves. We change it by speaking out whenever we see people trying to divide us into categories and stoking fear from one category to the other.

I said this on Facebook earlier, but I’m going to repeat it here:

Here’s the bad news:

You, as an individual, are not going to fix the world’s problems.

This world is too big for any one person to step outside and wave a magic wand and make all the bad things go away. You can work, and work, and try, and try, and all the problems will still be there.

And that fact can be frustrating. It can be overwhelming. It can make you want to give up.

But here’s the good news:

*We* can fix the world’s problems.

Together. A little at a time.

When you go out tomorrow, do one thing to make the world a slightly better place. Pick up one piece of trash. Smile at one stranger. Volunteer for one hour, for one organization. Walk to work. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Buy the local food instead of the brand name. Call your family. Call your friends. Don’t fear. Don’t hate. Don’t judge. Be an example for others.

If you do that, and I do that, and we do that…there’s no telling what we can do.


In HB2 Court Fight, Both Sides Admit They’re Wrong

One of the biggest problems with American politics today is that we’ve lost our sense of humility. (If we ever had it in the first place, that is.) Time was, there were only a few places where you could get your news, and if the world they described clashed with your preconceived opinions – well, that was your problem. But now, thanks to the Internet, there are thousands of news outlets, each of them carefully tailored to this viewpoint or that perspective. No matter how crazy or cockamamie you are, rest assured there are folks out there who think just like you, and some news site is dedicated to showing you the world the way you want to see it. “Yesss,” they whisper. “You’re absolutely right. It’s the ressst of the world that’s wrong.”

So naturally humility’s gone out the window. Donald Trump is leading polls, both parties are getting more entrenched, “compromise” is now a dirty word. It’s a real problem.

Especially in times like this, we as individuals have a moral duty to practice humility. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves. We need to be aware of our flaws. We need to admit when we don’t know something. We need to recognize that no ideas are perfect, not even our own. And most importantly, most importantly, we need to be willing to admit when we’re wrong.

Take, for instance, the court battle over House Bill 2.

There are actually several court battles surrounding HB2, but I want to focus on the one from a couple weeks ago – remember, when the Department of Justice sued the state and then Governor McCrory sued the DOJ and the General Assembly sued them too, and then the DOJ sent out a letter to every school district in America and then a dozen other states got in on the suin’ as well? You know. That one.

There’s a whole lotta yelling going on with all those lawsuits, but the legal question is actually pretty simple. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Education Amendments of 1972 both ban discrimination on the basis of “sex.” Does the word “sex” also imply “gender identity”?  If it does, then gender-identity discrimination is also illegal, which means a school can’t keep (for instance) a transgender girl out of the girls’ bathroom. If it doesn’t, then gender-identity discrimination is not illegal, and a school can set whatever policy it wants.

The Justice Department is arguing that “gender identity” is included in the word “sex,” and most LGBT advocates and HB2 opponents agree. North Carolina is arguing that “sex” does not include “gender identity,” and if you’re an HB2 supporter, that’s your argument too.

And everybody’s willing to go to court over this, so apparently we’re all very certain our position is the right one.

But here’s the point I want to make, and it’s the funniest damn thing in the world:

Both sides have already admitted they’re wrong.

Start with HB2’s supporters. Tim Moore and Phil Berger filed a lawsuit against the federal government because (they said) they don’t believe “sex” includes “gender identity.”

But when they actually wrote House Bill 2, they did this:

HB2 biological sex


(When you’re reading a bill, anything that’s crossed out is what the bill wants to eliminate from the current law, and whatever’s underlined is what the bill wants to add to the current law. Anything that’s not crossed out or underlined is meant to be left unchanged.)

What you’re looking at there is Part 3.1(a) of HB2, which makes one small change to the state’s existing law against employment discrimination: it changes “sex” to “biological sex.” (In Part 1, the bill defines “biological sex” as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.”) The purpose here is to preempt any discrimination claims from transgender people: the change makes it clear that gender identity is not protected as a category. It’s “biological” sex, nothing more.

But why was that necessary? Phil Berger and Tim Moore are heading to court right now insisting that the word “sex” doesn’t include “gender identity.” If that’s true, then there was no need to add “biological” to “sex” in HB2 – the word “sex” alone would have been loophole-free. The fact that Berger and Moore made it a point to add “biological” means they believe (or at least they suspect) that “sex” really does cover gender identity too.

In other words, the General Assembly has already conceded that the Justice Department is correct – the proof is in HB2 itself.



It’s almost funny enough to make you forget that LGBT advocates have always assumed the word “sex” doesn’t cover gender identity.

Because that’s true too. The Civil Rights Act has banned discrimination on the basis of “sex” since 1964 – and if Loretta Lynch is right, that means discrimination on the basis of gender identity has technically been illegal for more than 50 years. So there wouldn’t be a need to go back and add “gender identity” as a separate category.

But that’s exactly what the LGBT rights movement has been trying to do for years. Versions of the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” or ENDA, have been introduced in Congress over and over again since the 1990s. Initially, ENDA proponents were only trying to add “sexual orientation” as a protected category – but beginning in 2007, they sought to add “gender identity” as well. (Why no “gender identity” before 2007? Not because advocates assumed the Civil Rights Act already covered it, but only because they figured it’d be hard enough to get Congress to sign off on “sexual orientation.”) And it’s not just on the federal level: LGBT rights advocates have spent years urging states to “add the four words” (“sexual orientation” and “gender identity”) to their own anti-discrimination laws as well.

Getting ENDA passed has been a central aim of the LGBT rights movement since the mid-90s. The idea that ENDA might be redundant in a world that already has the Civil Rights Act? Hasn’t really come up all that much. Instead, advocates have argued that “the four words” are necessary, that not adding them leaves LGBT people open to discrimination. That’s an argument that only makes sense if you believe the Civil Rights Act does not protect LGBT people – which is exactly what HB2’s supporters are arguing now.

So that’s where we stand. HB2’s supporters say the word “sex” doesn’t cover gender identity, but they changed state law apparently on the assumption that it does. HB2’s opponents say “sex” does cover gender identity, but they’ve spent the last 20 years pushing for a law that only makes sense if it doesn’t.

So what’s the truth, after all that?

The truth is that the law is simply unclear. Does the word “sex” cover “gender identity”? You can make a strong case that it does, and you can make a strong case that it doesn’t. And let’s be honest: even though we’re all puffing our chests and banging the pulpits over this court case, both sides know full well that the law is unclear. That’s why Berger and Moore changed “sex” to “biological sex” in HB2 – they knew “sex” alone was too vague, so they added the word “biological” for clarity. That’s also why LGBT rights advocates have been pushing legislators to “add the four words” – even if they think the Civil Rights Act actually does cover them, they still want clarity too.

So maybe, at the end of the day, it’s Pat McCrory who’s getting it right. He’s the one, more than anybody else, who’s been urging Congress to take action to clear up the confusion. “The U.S. Congress must intercede,” he said on May 13. “We all must work together to seek answers and common sense clarification.”

Then again, maybe not. In calling for “common sense clarification” from Congress, McCrory is admitting (correctly) that the current law is unclear. If that’s the case, how should the courts proceed?

Traditionally, when the text of a law is unclear and it’s not obvious how it should be interpreted, the courts have always deferred to…yep, the executive branch.

This is a conservative principle, “judicial restraint” – where judges step back and let legislators and executives do their job, rather than imposing their own preferred policy.

But the upshot here is this: if Pat McCrory is right, and the law really is unclear – then the courts should reject his position and side with Loretta Lynch!

So, to sum up: HB2’s supporters say “sex” doesn’t include “gender identity,” but they act as if it does. HB2’s opponents say “sex” does include “gender identity,” but they act as if it doesn’t. Pat McCrory says the law is unclear – but if he’s right, then he should lose in court. We’re about to spend tens of thousands of dollars on this case, and literally everyone is wrong.

A little humility goes a long way.


Donald Trump, HB2, And The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations

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.


Maybe It’d Be Faster If We Just Listed Everyone Who Hasn’t Denounced HB2

So here’s the latest, as of April 17:

The city council in Los Angeles just voted unanimously to ban publicly-funded employee travel to North Carolina, in protest against House Bill 2. So you can add LA to that rapidly-growing list.

(Hey, remember back in 2014 when Chapel Hill hosted the Mayors Innovation Project? A hundred mayors from all over the country coming here to see how cool Chapel Hill is? Yeah, those days are oooooover.)

Meanwhile: HB2 supporters breathed a mini-sigh of relief on Friday when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appeared to announce they weren’t going to move next year’s All-Star Game out of Charlotte after all. But then the NBA released a statement clarifying: no, they haven’t actually decided not to move the All-Star Game – they just haven’t yet decided to move it.

“At no time did Adam affirm that the league would not move the All-Star Game; rather he stressed repeatedly that the legislation is problematic, that we feel it is best to engage with the community to work towards a solution, that change is needed and we are hopeful that it will occur.”

(Nothing against the NBA, but it’s probably a good sign you’ve taken your homophobia too far when even the pro sports leagues aren’t sure they want anything to do with you.)

And now we can add Duran Duran to the list of entertainers who have issued statements publicly bashing North Carolina. Duran Duran is taking the Mumford & Sons route instead of the Springsteen route – rather than canceling their show outright, they’re going to use it to raise awareness and funds for Equality NC. In a statement, the band denounced House Bill 2 as “outdated and cruel.”

(Nothing against Simon LeBon, but it’s probably a good sign you’re behind the times when you get called “outdated” by Duran Duran.)

Ye gods, it’s getting hard to keep up with it all, isn’t it? Ever since HB2 passed, it’s been one after another after another. You no sooner hear about PayPal when you get a tweet from Deutsche Bank. You can’t dwell on Dayton, Ohio, because now Salt Lake City is weighing in. You’re just about to get your Springsteen refund, and suddenly those Ringo tickets are invalid too. (This boycott gets any bigger, we’ll all be huddling around record players, listening to bootlegged Rodriguez LPs.)

Here at Chapelboro, we’ve been trying to stay on top of things. But it’s literally impossible. In the time it takes to make a list of all the denunciations, a dozen more businesses will chime in. Try to add those dozen businesses, and six more conferences get canceled. It never ends.

Let’s simplify matters.

Rather than desperately trying to maintain a list of all the people and places that are denouncing House Bill 2, let’s just keep a list of all the folks who haven’t denounced it.

Probably faster, right?

And I’m not even saying let’s list everyone who’s come out in favor of HB2. That list barely even exists. (Remember when the NC Values Coalition tried compiling a list of pro-HB2 businesses? There were so few, they had to pad it with businesses that had pro-HB2 employees.) No, no, I’m only talking about the people who haven’t made a statement either way.

So here ya go, North Carolina: these are just some of the people who (as far as I know) haven’t gone out of their way to publicly denounce us yet. Enjoy!

Cities, Counties, And States That Have Yet To Ban Publicly-Funded Employee Travel To North Carolina

Arthur County, Nebraska
Butte, Montana
Dubuque, Iowa
Forsythe County, Georgia
Kenosha, Wisconsin
Loving County, Texas
Merrimack, New Hampshire
North Dakota
Quail Heights, Florida
Rankin County, Mississippi
Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories
Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania
Washoe County, Nevada
Zilwaukee, Michigan

Businesses That Have Not Yet Denounced House Bill 2 Or Threatened To Pull Jobs From North Carolina

Buy Buy Baby
General Motors
Malaysia Airlines

Entertainers That Have No Current Plans To Stop Performing In NC Or To Donate Proceeds From NC Shows To Pro-LGBT Causes

Arena Football League
Hank Williams III
Jeff Dunham
Justin Bieber
Lauryn Hill
Los Del Rio
The Oak Ridge Boys
Pearl Jam (took long enough!)
R. Kelly
Ted Nugent
Vanilla Ice
Weird Al Yankovic
ZZ Top*

There you go, y’all! Make your purchases and travel plans accordingly. (And feel free to correct me if I got some of these wrong. There have been so many public denunciations of this bill, it’s entirely possible a few slipped through the cracks.)

(* – ZZ Top has not made a public statement about HB2, but they’re on tour this summer with Gregg Allman, who did denounce HB2 on April 12. They’re still coming to North Carolina in May.)


Roy Cooper: Attorney General’s Office Will Not Defend HB2

North Carolina Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper announced on Tuesday that his office would not defend the constitutionality of House Bill 2, which – among other things – repeals the Charlotte City Council’s decision to extend the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to the LGBT community.

Cooper began addressing reporters by saying, “We should not even be here today.”

Cooper added, “We’re here because the governor has signed statewide legislation that puts discrimination into the law.”

A lawsuit was filed on Monday by LGBT advocacy groups challenging the legislation.

Cooper went on to call House Bill 2 “a national embarrassment” adding that “it will set North Carolina’s economy back, if we don’t repeal it.”

Cooper said that rather than defending the listed defendants in the lawsuit – Governor Pat McCrory, UNC, the UNC System Board of Governors and that board chair Lou Bissette – his office would defend the state Treasurer’s office. Cooper said the Treasurer’s office has a nondiscrimination policy similar to one the Department of Justice has in place, and the Treasurer’s office, which is occupied by a Democrat, requested the services of the DOJ to defend that policy.

“In order to protect our nondiscrimination policy and employees, along with those of our client – the state Treasurer’s office – part of our argument will be that House Bill 2 in unconstitutional,” Cooper said.

Cooper said defending the Treasurer’s office in this case presents a conflict and, therefore, his office can not defend the state.

“Part of that duty of defending those policies, which help protect employees, would be to argue that this law in unconstitutional,” Cooper said. “And we can’t do both.”

Because the Attorney General’s office will not defend the state, the defendants will have to hire outside legal counsel – which has been done before when Cooper would no longer defend North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage.

During the press conference, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger issued a release saying that Cooper’s “zeal for pandering for the extreme left’s money and agenda in his race for governor is making it impossible for him to fulfill his duties as attorney general – and he should resign immediately.”

Cooper described this as a “unique and different situation.”

Cooper added, “My office has stepped up and defended some bad legislation that I do not agree with. We do our job in this office.”

Cooper took it a step beyond saying his office wouldn’t defend the lawsuit, calling for action from the legislature and Governor McCrory.

“Discrimination is wrong, period,” Cooper said. “The governor and the legislature should repeal this law.”

Cooper and McCrory are set to square off in what is expected to be one of the closest and most expensive races for Governor in the country in this November’s elections.


Facts And Myths (That McCrory Forgot) About House Bill 2

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.)

You can read it here.

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.

Here’s the full text of the bill, if you want to read it for yourself.

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?


15. WHAT?!

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?

Yes. Mississippi.

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.

22. Unbelievable.

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?

House Bill 2


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…

House Bill 2


…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.

Think You Can Enforce House Bill 2? Take This Easy Quiz!


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.