One year ago, the North Carolina General Assembly convened a special session to solve a problem that didn’t exist.
Outrageously claiming they wanted to protect women and children from sexual predators, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest and Speaker Tim Moore—two prominent Republicans who have consistently supported other anti-LGBT legislation over the years—and the legislature’s Republican super-majorities came back to Raleigh in order to block a Charlotte ordinance that expanded nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQ people from going into effect.
A 15-year-old transgender boy named Skye Thomson spoke before a committee of state senators, pleading with them not to pass the bill. It would require transpeople to use the bathroom of the gender listed on their birth certificates in public facilities—including in government buildings and schools, which would force Skye to use the girls’ restroom.
“I’ve dealt with bullying my whole life, and now I worry that my own state lawmakers are bullying me as well,” he said. “I feel bullied by you guys.”
In the end, Republicans (and eleven House Democrats who voted for the bill) didn’t listen: The hastily written bill was introduced, passed, and signed by Governor Pat McCrory all in one day. At the time he signed it, a public-records request later found, McCrory didn’t even understand the bill.
The 365 days that followed have seen incredible backlash against the state, as HB 2 has resulted in costly economic boycotts and partially contributed to McCrory’s loss in November. But despite all of that, the bill remains on the books, and other states are getting closer to copying North Carolina, most notably Texas. Lawmakers and activists are pessimistic that the bill will be undone in North Carolina without the intervention of the courts.
Joaquin Carcaño, a 28-year-old transgender man who works at the University of North Carolina helping HIV-positive transgender Latina women, was at work when he heard the news that the bill was probably going to pass. “It seemed so extreme, it didn’t seem possible,” he remembers. “And then my coworker came up to me and said, ‘I’m sorry about what the state has done to you and your community.’”
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When Charlotte passed comprehensive LGBTQ protections on February 22 last year, including places of public accommodations, it became the first municipality in North Carolina to provide such protections. It was necessary: According to multiple studies and surveys, transgender people often report being harassed or assaulted while using the bathroom associated with their gender identity. Prior to Charlotte, hundreds of other municipalities around the country and 17 states plus DC had done the same thing, usually up against the same sort of opposition which claims that such laws make it easier for men to sexually assault women and girls in bathrooms. (This myth has been debunked many times over.)