The Chapel Hill Town Council passed a resolution in a special meeting Monday night affirming the dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and calling for the repeal of House Bill 2.
The resolution came the same day that state residents and advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s new law that bans local anti-discrimination ordinances and requires transgender residents to use the public restrooms of their biological sex.
At their hour-long meeting in Town Hall, Town Council members cited Chapel Hill’s long history of LGBT support. The list began with the election of Joe Herzenberg in 1981 as the first openly gay elected official in the South and continued with the establishment of a domestic partner registry and benefits for town employees, including gender identity in town non-discrimination language and the election of openly gay former Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and former member Lee Storrow.
In addition to the prohibition on LGBT protections, Mayor Pam Hemminger said mayors across the state are concerned about the law’s barring local governments from pursuing living-wage ordinances and anti-discrimination protections beyond what the state currently allows in government contracts.
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“The greatest sentiment was the loss of local control,” Hemminger said. “There are a lot of pieces to House Bill 2 that have yet to be boiled down.”
The bill was founded in fear, the mayor continued, because North Carolina is changing and becoming more diverse. She called the state Republican leadership’s treatment of local lawmakers who opposed the law and how it was implemented “reprehensible, just not right.”
Monday’s meeting followed a special meeting Saturday in Carrboro, where the Board of Aldermen passed similar resolutions.
A handful of community members spoke, including Kleinschmidt, Alderman Damon Seils, Orange County Democratic Party Chair Matt Hughes and Michelle Doss, a transgender Gulf War veteran.
The former 13-year Marine came out as transgender two and a half years ago and has had no incidents using female bathrooms, Doss said.
“I wanted to come up here and be visible,” Doss told the council. “I’m a good person. I raised a daughter.”
“I understand the fear, but it’s based on ignorance,” Doss continued. “There’s a lot of anger and hatred out there, and I think I deserve better than that.”
Amanda Ashley, who is also transgender, urged the council to stand up to the legislature.
“You are being threatened with tyranny,” she said. “In times like this civil disobedience is mandatory. Resistance is necessary here.”
After the first resolution passed 7-0, with two council members absent, the council passed a second resolution to strongly condemn the actions of the governor and legislators who supported “this hateful bill.” The resolution, read aloud by council members, named the lawmakers who supported the bill.
The second resolution also passed 7-0, “unanimously and whole-heartedly,” Hemminger described it after the vote.
Council members then spoke, affirming equal rights and saying lawmakers used the issue of transgender people in public bathrooms as a “Trojan horse,” as member Jessica Anderson said, to move in and further strip local governments’ authority.
Council member Donna Bell said legislators are pitting groups against each other. “I will do all in my power to make sure this bill is repealed,” she said. “This is an election year. This is a year for all of us to get fired up.”
Council member Maria Palmer had announced in church on Sunday that the council would be having Monday’s special meeting.
“People need to support this (opposition to House Bill 2) because it’s going to make the community a better place,” she said. “We don’t do this for other people. We do this for ourselves.”
Member Nancy Oates suggested the town hold a public meeting to talk about local ramifications, including economic impact, of the new law.
“I think the law hurts all of us,” she said.
The draft resolution
This is a copy of the draft resolution before amendments made Monday night.
A RESOLUTION AFFIRMING THE DIGNITY OF LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PEOPLE AND CALLING FOR THE REPEAL OF SESSION LAW 2016-3/HOUSE BILL 2 (2016-03-28/R-1)
WHEREAS, on February 22, 2016, the Charlotte City Council demonstrated leadership by approving a local ordinance that adds marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to its list of categories protected from discrimination in city contracting and public accommodations; and
WHEREAS, on March 23, 2016, in response to the Charlotte ordinance, the North Carolina General Assembly in special session ratified, and Governor Pat McCrory signed, House Bill 2 (Session Law 2016-3), the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act; and
WHEREAS, House Bill 2 purports to repeal the Charlotte ordinance by establishing new statewide standards for what constitutes discriminatory practice in employment and public accommodations; and by establishing new statewide requirements for bathrooms and changing facilities in all public agencies, including schools; and
WHEREAS, the omission of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and other categories from the statewide list of categories protected from discrimination means that not only do protections on these bases appear to be unavailable under state law, but further, that local governments appear to be preempted from offering these protections; and
WHEREAS, the legislation also appears to eliminate the right of any person to bring a civil action in a North Carolina court for a claim of discrimination in employment or public accommodations on account of race, religion, color, national origin, age, or biological sex (as well as handicap for employment only); and
WHEREAS, by enacting House Bill 2, our state’s political leaders have once again taken extreme measures to attempt to diminish the legislative authority of local governments, and have once again used the laws of the State of North Carolina to codify discrimination and division rather than to advance the rights and dignity of North Carolinians; and
WHEREAS, the legislation demonstrates a lack of knowledge and understanding of the experiences of transgender people; a lack of respect for the dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people; and a discriminatory intent and a desire to use such intent for political gain on the part of the General Assembly and Governor McCrory; and 3
WHEREAS, the legislation is inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; and
WHEREAS, Chapel Hill the Town of Chapel Hill has led the state in advancing equal protection and freedom under the law for all LGBT people in the following ways: in 1987, Chapel Hill voters elected Joe Herzenberg to the Town Council, the first openly gay elected official in the state; in 1995, the Town created a domestic partner registry to enable same-sex partners of Town employees to qualify for employment benefits; in 2004, the Town added gender identity and gender expression to its nondiscrimination policies, becoming the first local government in the state to protect the transgender community from discrimination; in 2009, Mark Kleinschmidt became Chapel Hill’s first openly gay mayor, proceeding to demonstrate leadership in the national movement for LGBT rights; and in 2011, Lee Storrow was elected to Town Council, adding his voice as a gay man to the movement.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:
SECTION 1. The Town Council reaffirms its support for protecting and advancing the constitutional rights and equitable treatment of all and its opposition to discrimination, prejudice, homophobia, and transphobia.
SECTION 2. The Town Council commends the people of Charlotte and the members of the Charlotte City Council for their historic achievement, and particularly for their courageous leadership in standing for dignity and equality in North Carolina’s largest city.
SECTION 3. The Town Council expresses its gratitude to the Orange County Board of Commissioners, which approved a resolution in support of the Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance on March 22, 2016, and to the Town of Carrboro, which approved a resolution in opposition to Session Law 2016-3/H.B. 2 on March 26, 2016.
SECTION 4. The Town Council strongly urges the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal House Bill 2 at the earliest opportunity. SECTION 5. The Town Council encourages all businesses providing public accommodations in Chapel Hill and throughout North Carolina to demonstrate their support for the dignity of all people by openly welcoming LGBT people to their places of business and by providing gendernonspecific bathroom facilities for their customers and employees wherever practicable.
SECTION 6. The Town Council directs the Town Attorney to explore joining lawsuits that may be brought to address the inequities present in the law. 4
SECTION 7. The Town Council asks the Town Clerk to send copies of this resolution to Gov. Pat McCrory, Speaker Tim Moore, President Pro Tem Phil Berger, the members of the Orange County delegation to the General Assembly, the chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, and the mayor of the City of Charlotte. This the 28th day of March, 2016