North Carolina has gotten considerable national attention in recent weeks, though as seems to often happen since the present General Assembly leadership took over, it’s for bad reasons.
We’re talking about HB2, or what’s become known as the bathroom law, which now threatens to bring down the weight of the U.S. Justice Department on the state, and has put at risk federal funding to North Carolina’s public schools and universities. Losing that money would be a crippling blow to public and higher education in the state.
All over a misguided, poorly written, overreaching law that had no business being considered in the first place.
Please understand, the Charlotte city ordinance the General Assembly took aim at, the one that made it legal for people to use public restrooms based on which gender they “identify” with, is wrong on so many levels. This part of the city ordinance was not protecting LGBT rights, as many wish to claim, nor was it stamping out any sort of discrimination.
Charlotte City Councilman Ed Driggs, who voted against the ordinance, was spot on during debate that city’s commissioners had the night they passed the ordinance, when he said: “Everyone is required to use the bathroom of their gender – you can’t get more equal than that. It’s not the back of the bus.”
We agree whole-heartedly. Unfortunately, Charlotte passed the ordinance 7-4 in February, even though we believe a majority of the residents of that city opposed it.
Even more unfortunate was the General Assembly’s response in ramming through its bill, during a one-day special session called specifically to impose the state’s will on Charlotte, passing the now-infamous “bathroom bill,” with Gov. Pat McCrory signing the bill into law that night.
While we have voiced our opposition to the Charlotte ordinance before, the problem with the state’s bill is twofold: First, it’s state overreach, with Raleigh meddling in a strictly local issue (which has become the norm for this General Assembly); Second, state legislators went far beyond addressing Charlotte’s “bathroom ordinance” in the new state law.
As we’ve previously reported, the state law requires individuals to use restrooms of the gender which is on their birth certificate — and we might note here that for individuals who have undergone sex-change procedures, those individuals can have their gender changed on their birth certificate, so this law really has no effect on those who truly change genders.
That provision, by itself, we could support. It’s the rest of the bill that is troublesome.
The state bill removed work-place discrimination protections for virtually everyone, including members of the LGBT community. Yes, an employer can now fire you, or demote you, if he suspects you’re gay or trans, and you cannot sue in state court or seek any sort of state remedies. What most have overlooked is you can be fired, demoted, or overlooked for a promotion based on your gender, on your race, your age, or your religious beliefs, and you cannot seek any sort of court action or other legal remedy in North Carolina.
Discrimination of all sorts is not only legal, at least on a state level now, it’s even encouraged, some might say.
Yes, anyone who is the victim of such discrimination can still seek civil penalties through the federal court system, but the window for taking action is significantly shorter on the federal level; it can often be much more costly, at least initially, for a plaintiff to start a federal action; and a 40-year-old suing for damages resulting from workplace discrimination might die of old age before the case winds its way through the federal system.
Inexplicably, the new state law also prohibits local governments from raising a local minimum wage above the state average of $7.25 an hour as some of the more progressive communities around the nation have done; and strips away a number of work benefit protections for those doing contract work for municipal and county governments.
None of this is new information. We’ve reported on this, a scant few other media outlets have, before refocusing all of their attention on the LGBT portion of the new law, and nearly every provision of the new law simply opens North Carolina up for successful lawsuits against the state.
And now, the Justice Department is breathing down the state’s back, with the potential for serious action against North Carolina. Rather than reconsider its stand, North Carolina fired back on Monday, filing suit against the U.S. Justice Department, which has about as much chance of success as you-know-where freezing over.
And the state taxpayers are the ones who pay, with another expensive legal action destined to fail, while their home state continues to garner ridicule and outrage from the rest of the nation.