As much as we here at Politically Incorrect has pillared North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory for signing HB2, he has to be applauded for taking baby steps to amend a terribly flawed law that made the LGBT community second-class citizens in the Tar Heel State.
First, a quick history lesson on how McCrory and the state got in this mess.
Earlier this year, the Charlotte City Council adopted a revamped Non-Discrimination Ordinance that included protection for the LGBT community. Within this ordinance was a clause that allowed transgendered people to use the bathroom they identified with. This raised all sorts of cane with the state’s religious right, which claimed that Charlotte’s new “bathroom ordinance” would allow men to go into little girls restrooms (which in reality, it didn’t) and they weren’t having that.
After spending the better part of two months urging McCrory to call a special session to squash Charlotte’s new NDO, McCrory understood their plea but refused to call a special session, citing concerns that the Republican-dominated State House would input other legislation that had nothing to do with Charlotte’s NDO.
Nevertheless, lawmakers found a hidden clause that allowed the legislature to sidestep the governor and call a special session if they had three-fourths of the support from their colleagues to come back. And of course they did, and in a matter of 10 hours on March 23, Charlotte’s new protections for the city’s LGBT community was squashed, transgendered were now forced to use the bathroom aligned with their biological sex in government buildings and schools, cities in the state were banned from protecting the LGBT in their towns and were also barred from setting a minimum wage that was higher than the state average.
And just for the heck of it, the state made it illegal for people, gay and straight, to sue their workplace for discrimination in state courts.
Naturally, this set off a huge public backlash which created an economic Armageddon that finally got to McCrory this week. On April 12, McCrory signed an executive order that affirmed the bathroom law and the state’s new NDO that left out the LGBT population.
He extended LGBT protections to state workers and pressed the legislature to legal again for private workers to sue their employers for discrimination in state courts. Like we said, he took baby steps, but it was steps needed in a broader effort to make real changes to a law that has really tainted North Carolina’s image as a tolerant and business-friendly state.
While most on the side of HB2 cheered the governor for leaving the bathroom law intact, social conservative groups like NC Values pillared the governor for extending state protection for state LGBT workers and making changes to the law. That anger only cements that fact that for most of North Carolina’s religious right, it was never about the bathrooms. Charlotte’s NDO flap was used as a vehicle for the religious right to finally marginalize the LGBT community within the state.
This column will deal with them later. What is to be discussed now is how this bill can further be amended.
McCrory needs to press the state legislature to strip away the minimum wage ban and add protections for the LGBT community in the new state NDO. Those would be significant changes that should please gay and lesbian advocates while bringing an amendment to the bathroom law that would require government buildings, schools, and universities to add gender-neutral restrooms for the transgendered.
McCrory noted that HB2 wasn’t a perfect law, but it’s the duty of the governor and the state legislature to make a bad bill palatable. McCrory took a small step to do so, and he needs to press his colleagues to take the big steps needed to make HB2 the law that is should have been, not the law the religious right wanted.
Author note: An earlier version is this column reported in error that McCrory had repealed a clause in HB2 that barred private workers from suing their employers in state courts. His order only pressed for the legislature to restore the state court option for private workers.