How we got to this point will be a sad and confusing chapter in North Carolina’s political and social history. First, let’s say that Gov. Pat McCrory’s executive order on the controversial House Bill 2 was a step in the right direction. But more modification is needed to rein in this overly broad statewide law that was an overreaction to Charlotte’s also unwieldy ordinance on bathrooms.
In announcing his executive order on HB2’s sweeping regulations, McCrory said he was taking action “after listening to people’s feedback for the past several weeks on this issue.” Maybe it would have been wise for the governor to have listened to feedback before he signed the bill into law on the same day it was rushed through the General Assembly.
Like it or not, issues surrounding sexual and gender identity are at the forefront of our national debate. They are complex and sensitive issues, many affecting people who have been at best routinely discriminated against and at worst persecuted most of their lives. Any legislation surrounding such issues deserves thoughtful and deliberate debate. That didn’t happen here.
We still believe a reasonable solution can be found that doesn’t mean high school kids of the opposite sex are taking showers together after gym class. We also think it’s common sense to have separate men’s and women’s restrooms.
We also know that as strange and wrong as it may seem to some folks, there are men who live their lives as women, and women who live their lives as men, often without any change in sex organs. We suspect people have often occupied the same public restroom with someone who is transgender and didn’t even know it.
There are women who — by use of hormones and other techniques — look exactly like a man with a beard. Same for men who are transgender. Public showers makes things more complicated, but bathrooms usually have privacy stalls. We are still trying to figure out where these restrooms are where folks are identifying other people’s genitals. There already are laws in place on indecent exposure.
The simple fact is, transgender people have always used the restroom of the gender they live as. HB2 took what effectively was a don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy and turned it on its head, requiring someone who has female sex organs but looks like an NFL linebacker to use a women’s restroom. And a man who looks like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader is required to use the men’s room.
We wish the Charlotte City Council had not passed the law to begin with. Their action and the General Assembly’s overreaction are likely going to make things worse, not only for transgender people but also all sorts of people who now have no recourse in state court if they feel they are discriminated against.
Sadly, North Carolina has become a national lightning rod, something that has damaged our reputation. Perception becomes reality in today’s media-saturated world.
Under the current law, North Carolinians have legal protections for race, religion, color, national origin or biological sex. But, the best we understand, a restaurant could refuse to serve a gay person or a military veteran or an obese person and there would be no legal recourse in state court.
When the short session begins next week, legislators should rethink this entire mess. We believe careful study could find a workable and non-discriminatory solutions to the complex issues the law addresses.
— The Times-News of Burlington
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, speaks during the town hall meeting led by Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC, TurnOUT! North Carolina to repeal House Bill 2 on April 14 in Charlotte.