This morning, the North Carolina State Legislature is scheduled to reconvene for a radical and costly special session in which they will specifically work to pass legislation that will undermine crucial protections that the Charlotte City Council passed for its LGBT citizens and residents earlier this year. Ahead of this morning’s meeting, HRC and Equality North Carolina decried their reckless efforts to sanction discrimination statewide, put transgender people at increased risk of discrimination, and undermine the democratic process in cities and towns across the state -- and to waste tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars in the course of doing so.
“Spending $42,000 a day to try to strip away local control -- all in the name of enabling discrimination--is reckless and irresponsible,” said Marty Rouse, National Field Director for the Human Rights Campaign. “The people of Charlotte elected a pro-equality mayor and a pro-equality City Council, and the state legislature is now poised to trample on that election and the city’s democratic process by undermining or overturning its ordinance and potentially others across the state. Moreover, disgraceful new provisions in draft legislation circulating around around the capitol would specifically put transgender North Carolinians in the crosshairs of even greater discrimination that far too many already face. It’s time for lawmakers in Raleigh stop the political games, to stop promoting dangerous lies and myths about transgender people accessing bathrooms, and to reject any piece of dangerous and discriminatory legislation.”
“There will no doubt be a lot of myths and outright lies to try to justify spending $42,000 to interfere with a decision Charlotte’s democratic City Council made to pass non-discrimination protections. Cities across the country including Columbia, South Carolina, have already enacted protections which mirror Charlotte and none of the cities that have these protections created a public safety risk,” said Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro. “Here’s what’s true: The legislature’s rush to judgment in a special session is bad policy that is going to mean more North Carolinians living in fear of discrimination. Gov. McCrory must stand up and veto any bill that would increase the risk of discrimination.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force reported that in a survey of transgender people living in North Carolina,half of respondents had been harassed or discriminated against in public places like hotels, restrooms, restaurants and other public services. Places of public accommodation make up a huge part of people’s everyday lives - the coffee shop, the newspaper stand, public transit, the favorite lunch hangout, the grocery store, the gas station, the movie theater and the local pub are all places of public accommodation -- and it is unconscionable to deny people access to the most fundamental features of daily life simply because of who they are. Tampering with Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance would remove these crucial protections for thousands of transgender visitors and residents.
According to reports, lawmakers are considering legislation that could have far-reaching consequences for all North Carolinians as well as any visitors to the Tar Heel State. Proposed legislation is likely to include municipal preemption language that would void Charlotte’s ordinance as well as other ordinances in the state. Moreover, the legislation could take away local control from towns and cities across North Carolina seeking to implement their own non-discrimination protections in the future.
Last month, by a 7-4 vote, and with the strong support of newly elected Mayor Jennifer Roberts, the Charlotte City Council advanced citywide non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations. Since the pro-equality vote, dozens of North Carolina lawmakers have made baseless claims about the transgender community by referring to the ordinance as a “bathroom bill” that it a threat to “public safety” and “privacy.”
Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance is not merely about access to bathrooms. It is about transgender people’s right to access public businesses -- such as movie theaters, grocery stores, and gas stations -- and public services like taxicabs. The ordinance grants LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections in government contracting. North Carolina’s lack of a statewide LGBT non-discrimination law makes the Charlotte ordinance an important anti-discrimination tool. Eighteen other states and Washington D.C. already have statewide non-discrimination protections that include sexual orientation and gender identity in places of public accommodation - including but not limited to bathrooms.
Anti-LGBT activists continue to label the nondiscrimination ordinance a “bathroom bill” -- a deplorable effort to demean the rights of LGBT people and debase LGBT people, particularly transgender people, themselves. Preying on misinformation and ignorance, these anti-LGBT activists have smeared transgender people and suggested they are a danger to women and girls in public restrooms. In reality, the people most in danger of being unsafe in a restroom are transgender people who are forced to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or expression. Despite what anti-LGBT activists imply, the evidence over the last several decades is that non-discrimination ordinances provide more, not less, safety in restrooms.
Prior to last month’s vote, Charlotte remained one of the largest cities in the country without a law explicitly protecting LGBT residents and visitors from discrimination. Last November, TurnOut! Charlotte successfully helped elect a pro-equality majority to the the Charlotte City Council, a move which cleared the way for last month’s victory.
To learn more about the alarming onslaught of legislation nationwide targeting transgender people and children, particularly bills targeting transgender children at school and on school sports teams by forbidding them from having equal access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities, click here.