While Donald Trump mainstreams to become the Republican nominee, national political news has shifted to my home state of North Carolina, where the governor and General Assembly leaders are trying to trump the real-estate mogul in extremism—by suing the Justice Department for “federal overreach.” While the current debate may seem novel, this kind of political extremism is as old as the South. We’ve been fighting its current expression since Governor Pat McCrory and company took control of our state in 2013.
Media outlets have clamored about House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill” that requires people to use public restrooms designated for their gender as defined on their birth certificate, as opposed to the gender with which they identify. Our state’s extremists claim the law protects women and children from sexual predators lurking in bathrooms. So-called “Christian” advocacy groups sanctify their talking points. The state’s governor calls HB2 a “common sense” measure that does not change state law one iota with respect to bathrooms, but simply codifies existing state policy. Commentators decry the bill as the most anti-LGBT legislation in the country. But nearly all news coverage focuses solely on the transgender bathroom question. Though it is only a five-page law and readily available, most reporters seem not to have read HB2.
“Hate Bill 2” is not a “bathroom bill” to protect women and children from the transgender boogieman. Instead, it is a cynical attempt to pit supposedly Christian values against the best interests of our families and the highest callings of our faith. Its advocates violate the principle of “love thy neighbor” in the name of a misguided interpretation of religion. Extremist lawmakers designed it to deploy homophobia, race, and class as political wedge issues.
It would be bad enough if HB2 merely targeted a widely misunderstood minority, but this reading shortchanges the scope and intent of the bill. HB2 also violates local governance and discriminates against the working poor by forbidding municipalities from raising the minimum wage or requiring contractors to require living wages, sick leave, vacation pay, or minority set-asides. In the name of protecting children, it specifically forbids local communities from passing any measure that might protect, in the words of the law, “the well-being of minors in the workplace.”
“Hate Bill 2” specifically forbids all North Carolinians from filing discrimination lawsuits in the state courts. This applies to every employee in the state. Of course, this ban is especially tough on workers who routinely experience discrimination—women, the differently abled, racial minorities, and older citizens, among others. In that sense, it discriminates on the basis of age, sex, religion, race, class, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identification, and disability all at once—in fact, it discriminates against everyone except employers. For employers, it opens the door to treating any and all workers unfairly, with a greatly reduced fear of consequences.