On Thursday, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law prohibiting local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules to grant protections to gay and transgender people. The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual) community was ecstatic last month when the City of Charlotte passed an ordinance protecting LGBT persons from being discriminated against by businesses.
Governor Pat McCrory signed the bill into law just twelve hours after it had been introduced in the legislature. Even though the Senate passed the bill 32-0, that was because all of the Democrats in the upper chamber walked out of the session prior to the vote. In the Republican controlled House of Representatives, the bill passed along party lines, 82-26.
The new law creates a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance that specifically supersedes any local nondiscrimination measures. The statewide protections cover race, religion, color, national origin and sex, but not sexual orientation or gender identity. During the debate over the new law, legislators kept referring to the bill as “the bathroom bill”, because it specifically prevents transgendered persons from using bathroom facilities based upon the gender that they identity with.
The bill not only prevents localities from passing civil rights protections for LGBT persons, it has a chilling effect on other types of progressive community remedies; from a city establishing its own minimum wage that is higher than the statewide minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, in accordance with the federal minimum wage, to one granting civil rights protections to persons based upon gender identity and sexual orientation. The text of the new law requires all government-controlled facilities, including schools and universities, to assign all multiple-occupancy bathrooms and locker rooms to a single sex and prevent anyone who doesn’t match that biological sex from using the facility, hence the designation of “the bathroom bill”.
This new law means that businesses can simply refuse to hire, or serve LGBT community members anywhere in the state of North Carolina. The legislation has legalized discrimination, in a manner similar to compelling black patrons to use separate restrooms and water fountains during the 1960’s.
The new law makes null and void all city ordinances that provided protections to LGBT persons in at least a dozen localities across North Carolina; not just in Charlotte, although it was apparent that the ordinance adopted February 22 by the Charlotte City Council, which banned discrimination against LGBT persons was under assault, as it was slated to take effect on April 1, 2016.
The bill passed by the North Carolina Legislature and signed into law by the governor declares nondiscrimination to be “an issue of general, statewide concern,” and says local jurisdictions can’t craft their own nondiscrimination measures.
The law also affects those businesses competing for state contracts. It specifically prevents requirements from being placed into these contracts that are not approved by the state, such as paid sick leave for state contractors, and higher wages to compete for state contracts, such as were found in many localities, where cities had determined specific employment rules for contractors. Now, businesses in North Carolina can simply refuse to hire or serve any person they “believe” to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered.
Some have called the bill a “back door religious exemption bill”, permitting businesses to refuse service to anyone based upon a “belief”. The bill squarely smacks of unlawful discrimination, and will lead to further discrimination against LGBT persons, who now have no civil rights protections; by law.
Ultimately, one might wonder, where does it all end? Are businesses going to start discriminating against people because of the color of their skin or their religion just because someone “believes” those persons are LGBT?
North Carolina legislators have not codified how businesses are going to enforce such regulations, meaning that law enforcement will have to enforce the law for now. Does this mean that the number of state troopers will need to be increased just to enforce discrimination against LGBT persons?
Our society has so many problems, it simply appears that with the defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, which limited marriage between one female and one male, that the anti-LGBT crowd in North Carolina has attempted to do an end run around the U.S. constitution.
Expect this new law to be challenged in court. Any law that legalizes discrimination against any person establishes a precedent which can then be modified to include discriminatory acts against a person based upon religion, race, gender, or any number of other categories of people.