Last week the ACC and the NCAA announced new locations for all the championship events they moved out of North Carolina to protest House Bill 2. The ACC is moving games to South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Kentucky; the NCAA is moving games to California, Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Massachusetts and Tennessee.
So just so we’re all on the same page: thanks to HB2, North Carolina is now officially even more anti-LGBT than South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, Virginia, and Tennessee. (And also California, Florida and Massachusetts, but we knew that already.)
But I have a little bone to pick with the NCAA – because one of those states is Tennessee.
Listen to Aaron’s commentary.
What’s wrong with Tennessee, you ask?
Let’s go back to HB2. It’s been called the worst piece of anti-LGBT legislation in America, but let’s talk about why.
Part 1 of the bill denies transgender people the right to use the restroom in accordance with their gender identity – but not many states protect that right. Part 3 of the bill effectively legalizes anti-LGBT discrimination – but as Pat McCrory has (correctly!) said, North Carolina is one of 28 states that do not ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. There are 27 other states where you can still fire me for being gay and I can refuse to serve you for being transgender – including seven of the nine states that just got ACC and NCAA championship games. What gives?
What gives is a particular provision of HB2, something that sets our law apart from all those others. It’s in part 3 of the bill, which lists all the reasons you’re not allowed to discriminate. HB2 bans discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, biological sex, and handicap – but not sexual orientation and not gender identity, so you can legally discriminate on those grounds. That much is true in 27 other states too.
But House Bill 2 goes one step further. Not only does the state refuse to protect LGBT people, they also ban local governments from passing ordinances to add categories that aren’t covered by the state. Even if Chapel Hill or Orange County wanted to protect LGBT people from discrimination, HB2 forbids them from doing so.
And that is what sets House Bill 2 apart. Factor that in and suddenly there aren’t 27 other states just like us – there are two. There are only two other states in America with laws as anti-LGBT as ours.
But here’s the thing:
One of those two states is Tennessee! (Arkansas is the other.)
So why is it okay for the NCAA to host the Division III men’s and women’s tennis championships in Chattanooga?
I call shenanigans!
Now there is an actual explanation for this, which the NCAA spelled out in a statement last month. It’s Part 1 of the bill, the “bathroom” stuff, that really put the ACC and the NCAA over the top. It’s true that not many states explicitly protect the right of transgender people to use the restroom in accordance with their gender identity – but North Carolina is unique in making it clear that transgender people who do so are breaking the law. That’s what spurred the NCAA to move games to Tennessee. At least in Chattanooga, the venue can allow people to use the bathroom as their gender identity dictates, without having to worry about a trespassing citation. (Venues can do that here in North Carolina too if they’re privately owned, which is why Duke still gets to host the ACC men’s lacrosse championship.)
But if the NCAA is serious about taking a stand – and I am 100 percent in favor of them if they are – then I think we ought to take a stand against those other two states as well. No more championship games in North Carolina, or Arkansas, or Tennessee.
And if Chattanooga has a problem with that – let ‘em call me.
Sports can make a difference. Let’s make it happen.