“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
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
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
See what happens? The General Assembly comes back in session for one week and now we’ve got a Congressman living in somebody else’s district, two different dates for two different primaries, a whole new filing period for an election cycle that began months ago, and a new set of Congressional district lines that resolves almost none of the problems that started this whole fiasco in the first place.
Isn’t it time for North Carolina to end gerrymandering forever?
In case you haven’t been following the saga – or in case all the rapid developments have left you utterly confused – here’s where we are today.
So, to sum up: you now have two primaries to vote in, not just one. There’s a good chance you just got moved to a new district, for the second time in five years. Candidates who’ve already spent thousands of dollars running for office now have to go back to square one and start again. One incumbent who represents District A now lives in District B and is planning to run in District C. Naturally lawmakers blamed the judges for all this, but the court wouldn’t have stepped in at all if the GA hadn’t drawn the map in such a cockamamie way in the first place.
Oh, and there’s almost certainly going to be another lawsuit challenging this map too, so we may have to do this all over again in two years.
Here’s what the old map looked like. Check out that ridiculous 12th district! You could throw a bowling ball in district 8 and it would land in district 5.
Here’s the new map, looking better with a revised 12th…but still a crazy-shaped 4th, and a 13th that’s magically leaped from east of Raleigh to west of Greensboro. There are two sitting members of Congress who now live in the 13th, and neither one of them is the guy who actually represents that district.
Still with me?
Ready for the best part?
For all the scurrying and last-second maneuvering this week, lawmakers did absolutely nothing to fix the one problem that caused all this chaos in the first place.
In fact they explicitly went out of their way to avoid doing so.
On Friday, while details were still being finalized, I spoke with NC Central School of Law professor (and Carrboro Mayor) Lydia Lavelle. Here’s our conversation.
The issue that started this whole mess is partisan gerrymandering. Why, in 2011, did the General Assembly vote to approve a plan that packed black voters into two districts? Because the GA was controlled by Republicans, and they were trying to create as many Republican-majority districts as possible. This is not speculation: we know this is true because they said it was true. (And Democrats did the same thing when they controlled the GA. We’ve been through this exact same fiasco three decades in a row.)
The 15th Amendment bans racial gerrymandering, but the Constitution doesn’t explicitly forbid states from privileging one party over another – so naturally, just about every state does it. If Party A controls the state legislature, lawmakers draw the district lines to “pack” Party B’s voters together into as few districts as possible. They’re really good at it, too. When Republicans got to redraw North Carolina’s lines after the 2010 census, they packed Democrats together so effectively that in 2012, the GOP won nine of the state’s 13 Congressional seats even though Democrats got more votes overall.
Partisan gerrymandering makes an absolute mockery of democracy. Everybody knows it and everybody freely admits it. But as long as there’s no law against it – and as long as state lawmakers are in charge of drawing their own district lines – they have every incentive to keep doing it, in order to keep themselves and their party in power.
And because partisan lines are often racial lines too – blacks tend to vote Democratic, whites tend to vote Republican – then every time the GOP tries to pack Democrats into one or two districts, they’re going to end up packing black voters into one or two districts as well. Which means more lawsuits, more uncertainty, and more chaos. Every. Single. Time.
(This is true no matter which party controls the process, by the way. Democrats ran the show when the 2000 census came in, and the resulting legal fight didn’t wrap up until 2009.)
Did the GOP learn its lesson? Good Lord, of course not. This week, when the GA asked lawmakers to draw a new map, they also directed those lawmakers to make sure to preserve that 10-3 Republican majority. (Seriously, they took a vote on it and everything.) One Republican this week said he was only supporting a 10-3 GOP majority because there didn’t seem to be a way to make it 11-2. (Seriously, he said that in public.)
This is completely bonkers.
Is there a way to fix it?
Yes, as it turns out. It’s actually really easy: partisan gerrymandering exists because state lawmakers have the power to draw their own district lines – so the way to fix the problem is simply to give that power to somebody else.
There is a proposal on the table to create an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission. Every ten years, after each new census, this commission would be in charge of redrawing the boundaries for North Carolina’s State House, State Senate, and U.S. House districts.
No partisan bias. No inadvertent racial discrimination.
Fourteen other states already do it this way.
In North Carolina, the push for independent redistricting is being led by the NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. Earlier this week, I spoke with the Coalition’s director, Jane Pinsky.
Do North Carolinians support this plan?
Yes, they do. A survey from Public Policy Polling, just released this week, found that 59 percent of North Carolina voters support an independent redistricting commission – compared with only 9 percent who oppose it. Voters across the political spectrum are all in favor: 65 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of independents, and 54 percent of Republicans all approve this plan. (Only 6 percent of Democrats, 12 percent of independents, and 11 percent of Republicans are opposed.)
Just how unpopular is partisan redistricting? Last year, PPP found that more North Carolinians actually approve of man-eating sharks than the current redistricting system.
Okay, so how about state legislators? Do they support this plan?
Yes they do too, as it turns out. Even though it would mean they’d have to give up power, there’s actually fairly strong support for independent redistricting in the General Assembly, among Democrats and Republicans alike. Naturally support for reform is always greater among the minority party – Democrats tend to be more in favor of it today, while Republicans were more supportive back when the Dems were in control. But high-ranking Republicans, including Skip Stam, joined high-ranking Democrats together on the podium last year at a much-ballyhooed press conference to renew the push for redistricting reform – and in 2011 the State House actually approved a reform bill.
How about think tanks? Liberal? Conservative?
Yep, they all support it too. That press conference last year had people together from NC Policy Watch (liberal), the Pope Foundation (conservative) and the John Locke Foundation (conservative/libertarian). All in favor.
So why don’t we have an independent redistricting commission?
This is State Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. He’s in charge of deciding which bills get brought up for a vote on the Senate floor – and he has made it clear that he has no intention of letting the Senate vote on this.
(And after this week? He said he hasn’t changed his mind. But you knew that already.)
So after all that, here’s where we stand: total electoral chaos in North Carolina that’s only just now beginning to subside…two primaries scheduled in the next four months…a completely redrawn Congressional map for the second time this decade…candidates scrambling to file to run in all new districts…the looming prospect of another round of lawsuits…and an easy solution that North Carolinians overwhelmingly want, which lawmakers flatly refuse to consider.
It’s good to see, when it comes to legislative incompetence, Raleigh is still managing to keep pace with Washington.
If you want to know more about the fight to end gerrymandering (partisan, racial, or otherwise) and enact real redistricting reform, visit EndGerrymanderingNow.org.http://chapelboro.com/news/end-gerrymandering-now
The Board of Governors met in special session on Friday to consider a request from some members of the General Assembly for a copy of the minutes from the October 30 meeting, where the board voted in closed session to give 12 Chancellors pay raises, but did not disclose that information in open session.
Joe Knott, who was appointed to a four-year term on the board earlier this year, said that he felt the request from the legislators was overreach.
“What has been one of the keys to preserving academic excellence here has been the insulation of the university from political control,” Knott says. “That is the role of the Board of Governors.”
The board, ultimately, voted to give legislators the minutes from the closed-session-pay-raise debate.
The meeting took an odd turn when Knott accused lawmakers of attempting to influence the recent selection of a new System President.
“One of the legislators gave our chairman instruction as to who the next President should be,” Knott says. “This, of course, is extremely beyond the pale.”
Knott added that Chairman John Fennebresque, who resigned following the tumultuous Presidential search, deserved credit for refusing that suggestion from the legislator.
But other members of the board were visibly frustrated with Knott and said that if he had evidence of that, he should bring it forward.
Knott refused to identify the legislator who made the request, the candidate they had pushed for, or how he knew that the request had been made.
“I’m satisfied that it did,” he says. “And I’m satisfied that that is the sort of thing that would be very dangerous to the continued health of this institution.”
Former state Senator and current member of the Board of Governors Thom Goolsby said he has received no pressure or direction from members of the General Assembly since moving to the board.
“I think Mr. Knott’s statements were completely unwarranted on anything I’ve experienced on this board,” Goolsby says. “I’ve received nothing but support and hands-off as far as my decisions go from the General Assembly. But I am happy to receive any direction or question they have from me and to hear what they have to say, because they answer directly to the people.
“I’m given a four-year term. They’re given a two-year term.”
Vice Chairman Lou Bissette, who has been leading the board since the resignation of Chairman John Fennebresque following the election of Margaret Spellings as System President, was the recipient of praise from many members of the board for his leadership style in the interim.
Board member Marty Kotis said he is happy with the announcement that the board will receive a presentation on open records laws in North Carolina at its December meeting.
“Comments by Mr. Knott overshadowed our Chairman Lou Bissette,” Kotis says. “He is phenomenal. He is really pushing for more transparency here. We’re all excited about his actions.”
The board sent the requested information to the legislature on Friday afternoon and is scheduled to release it to the public when it has been properly formatted for public circulation.http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-board-of-governors-will-give-general-assembly-closed-session-minutes
The North Carolina General Assembly has wrapped up one of the longest legislative sessions in recent memory.
Municipalities’ ability to make decisions specifically impacting their communities, public school funding being diverted to charter schools, light rail spending, status of sanctuary cities, and the discreteness of the search for the next UNC system president were all up for debate in the whirlwind of action over the final few days of the legislative session.
Local Government Control: Senate Bill 279
A piece of legislation was introduced on the final day of the legislative session that proposed restrictions on local governments, before flaming out in spectacular fashion.
The changes were introduced as part of an unrelated bill that started out in an attempt to address qualifications of sexual education experts to approve sex ed curricula in school districts across the state. Throughout the intense debate on Tuesday, social media lit up with protests over the surprise amendment. LGBT advocates argued the move was aimed at reversing decisions by some municipalities extending discrimination laws to cover sexual orientation.
After being voted down by the House Rules Committee, a previous version of the bill – without the restrictive language – was passed by the Senate.
Charter School Funding: House Bill 539
Another piece of controversial legislation was also stopped in committee Tuesday night. The bill would have shifted some traditional public school funding to charter schools.
Public schools already split funding with charter schools based on enrollment numbers, but the new proposal would have taken money from pots previously reserved for public schools and diverted it to charters across the state.
Supporters say the bill would just provide equal funding to charter schools. Opponents argued against allowing charter schools to split funding for nutritional meals and transportation with public schools, because charter schools are not required to provide the same food and transportation services as traditional schools.
The bill could be brought back up in the short session next year.
Lawmakers said they wanted more time to evaluate charter school needs.
Light Rail Spending Amendment of Revenue Law Changes: Senate Bill 605
The House had voted earlier in the week to pass an amendment that would have removed the $500,000 spending cap on light rail.
The cap was originally placed in the state budget with no discussion beforehand.
Some have called the cap a “project killer” for the Durham – Orange Light Rail project, because the 17-mile light rail proposal is counting on 25 percent of the funding to come from state dollars.
The Senate sent the amended legislation to committee, where it will stay until at least next April.
The legislation to remove the cap could be reevaluated next session.
Sanctuary Cities: House Bill 318
Legislation is heading to Governor Pat McCrory that would ban sanctuary city policies, similar to what Chapel Hill and Carrboro have in place, from being adopted in the future.
This places the status in our community in limbo with several jurisdictional questions left to be answered, likely through litigation.
Protestors delivered letters to Mcrory on Wednesday asking him to veto the legislation. Another protest was held on the UNC campus on Thursday.
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt spoke with WCHL’s Blake Hodge about the proposal earlier in the week before it was passed. Listen below:
UNC President Search: Senate Bill 670
Finally, term limits have been placed for members to serve on the UNC Board of Governors, who will now only be able to serve three four-year terms on the 32-member board.
An amendment on the bill had called for a public meeting with the final three candidates for the president of the 17-campus UNC System.
That proposal was removed before the bill was finally passed to the governor.
Now the dozens of pieces of legislation that were nailed down in a fast-paced few hours await the signature of Governor Pat McCrory to become the law of the land.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/whats-left-after-the-general-assembly-went-home
***UPDATE: The North Carolina House voted on Monday night to remove the spending cap that was initially placed on light rail spending in the state budget signed earlier this month.
The state Senate is expected to vote on the legislation Tuesday. If passed, the bill would then go to Governor McCrory for his signature. ***
A surprise cap on light-rail projects in the recently signed North Carolina state budget may be short lived, if some lawmakers get their way.
Local Democratic House Representative Graig Meyer says a cloud of mystery is still hanging over the implementation of a $500,000 spending cap on light rail projects in North Carolina, a cap that some have called a “project killer” for the proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail line.
“The Durham and Orange County legislative delegation were concerned about the budget provision that limited spending on light rail,” he says, “because no one in legislative leadership talked to any of us before inserting that into the budget.
“And no one will tell us who inserted it or why.”
Meyer says a proposed amendment has bipartisan support from urban representatives after Wake County Republicans were able to remove language that would place additional caps on Wake County spending.
“Two of the Republicans who were instrumental in removing the Wake County provision were also agreeable to working with our delegation, who are all Democrats, to try and address the Durham and Orange County issue,” he says. “We’re likely going to try and do so on Monday night when that bill moves to the floor for a full vote from the House.”
Meyer says it is too late to make any changes to the budget that was signed earlier this month, but the proposed amendment would nullify the spending cap.
Meyer adds there are multiple reasons some Republicans are joining the local Democrats in the fight to remove the cap.
“One reason is that it changes something that the Republicans put in place last year,” he says, “which was supposed to be a non-political process for identifying how to fund transportation needs. Instead of everything in transportation going to whoever is the most powerful and could get it for their district, to have something that’s actually based on needs and the number people that it would help.
“This starts to unravel that plan, and the people who worked on that plan don’t want to see their idea get chipped away at.”
Meyer says other Republicans are interested in removing the cap because they see it as overreach from state lawmakers into local issues.
The cap has a major influence on the feasibility of the Durham-Orange Light Rail proposal because the $1.6 billion project is counting on 25 percent of the funding coming from the state, with 50 percent coming from federal dollars and the remaining 25 percent from local money raised through the sales tax change implemented in Durham and Orange Counties.
Meyer says he is encouraged to see initial support from some Republican members of the House, but that by no means guarantees the amendment receives the needed support.
“All of this, of course, is contingent upon getting the support of the majority of both chambers,” he says. “And we’re not sure where the Republican leadership will come down on this because they certainly were in favor of the cap that was put in place in the budget.
“They may not be fans of our efforts to try and change that cap.”
Meyer says he has heard from constituents who are against the current light-rail proposal.
“I think that people on both sides of the light rail debate in Orange County have legitimate points,” he says. “I represent rural Orange County for the most part, as well as a little bit of Chapel Hill. And I understand why many of the rural residents are concerned that light rail isn’t going to meet some of their needs.
“And I think there are some legitimate concerns about whether the current light-rail plan is the right plan.”
But Meyer adds details of the plan can be negotiated to find a compromise as long as there is funding from the state.
“In this case, I’m trying to work to undo the budget cap because I feel like the budget cap was a bad piece of policy that was enacted in a bad way,” he says. “And that the concerns that are legitimate about what is going to happen with light rail are ones that can be negotiated through our local elected officials who are part of the team that’s trying to figure out what’s the best way to move forward with public transportation.”
Two public hearings on the current light-rail proposal are scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday.http://chapelboro.com/featured/house-amendment-would-remove-light-rail-spending-cap