Equality North Carolina’s Chris Sgro Sworn in to North Carolina House

Maureen McCarty

Today, Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro was sworn in as a member of the North Carolina House, one day before the state legislature returns.

Sgro is the General Assembly’s only openly gay member.

HRC is proud to work alongside Equality North Carolina. In March, Sgro joined HRC President Chad Griffin, transgender advocate Candis Cox-Daniels and other LGBT advocates to hand-deliver a letter from more than 100 major CEOs and business leaders that urged Governor McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal HB 2. Since then, the number of business leaders calling for repeal of HB2 has grown to more than 180.

Gov. McCrory and state lawmakers are under increasingly intense pressure to repeal the discriminatory HB 2 during this legislative session. Mayors and governors across the country are banning travel to the state, musicians are cancelling concerts, and The New York Times editorial board called North Carolina a “pioneer in bigotry.” Major film studios and corporations, from PayPal to Deutsche Bank, have stopped investments in the state because of the new law. The United Kingdom’s Foreign Office has even warned its LGBT citizens of the risks of traveling to North Carolina. More than 180 leading CEOs and business leaders are urging Gov. McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the deeply discriminatory law that’s bad for business and bad for North Carolina.

HB 2 has eliminated existing municipal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people and prevents such protections from being passed by cities in the future. In addition, the legislation prevents transgender students in public schools from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity. It also compels the same type of discrimination against transgender people to take place in publicly-owned buildings, including in public universities, major airports, and convention centers. Further, HB 2 revokes the ability to sue under state employment non-discrimination law on the basis of any protected characteristic, including race, religion, national origin, and sex.  Lawmakers passed the legislation in a hurried, single-day session, and Gov. McCrory quickly signed it into law in the dead of night. The discriminatory law is already facing a legal challenge, and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said he will refuse to defend it in court.

North Carolina has the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first state in the country to enact a law attacking transgender students, even after similar proposals were rejected across the country this year -- including a high-profile veto by the Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota. North Carolina school districts that comply with the law will now be in direct violation of Title IX, subjecting the school districts to massive liability and putting an estimated $4.5 billion of federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education, as well as funding received by schools from other federal agencies, at risk. This section of HB 2 offers costly supposed solutions to non-existent problems, and it forces schools to choose between complying with federal law -- plus doing the right thing for their students -- or complying with a state law that violates students’ civil rights. Read more about how this bill puts federal funding at risk here.

While the governor’s recent executive order extends protections to some state workers, it does nothing to fix the vile and discriminatory provisions he signed into law through HB 2. Under HB 2, transgender people are prohibited from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity in public buildings, including the University of North Carolina campus and the Raleigh-Durham Airport. Cities still cannot adopt ordinances to prohibit discrimination against their residents and visitors. And HB 2 still prevents individuals from bringing discrimination suit in state courts.

Above: Rep. Brian Turner swears in Chris Sgro into the North Carolina Assembly. Sgro’s husband Ryan (center) joined him at the ceremony at the LGBT Center of Raleigh. Sgro will represent Greensboro.

Brian Turner; Chris Sgro

Above:Chris Sgro and Rep. Brian Turner.

Chris Sgro

Above: Chris Sgro.

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