Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts stood firm Monday against a move to make her city take the blame for House Bill 2. She said the City Council “is not prepared” to discuss repealing its ordinance protecting the rights of transgender people that spurred the passage of HB2 to nullify it.
Good for her. Good for Charlotte. And good for the cause of civil rights.
The legislature convened in special session in March to strike down Charlotte’s ordinance and reminded the city that in North Carolina all municipal power is granted by the state. Yet in the matter of HB2 it is the local government that now holds the power over the state, or rather the state’s Republican leadership. If Charlotte refuses to bail out state leaders for this disastrous bill, Republican lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory will suffer at the polls in November.
Charlotte should use this power for the same reason it expanded its anti-discrimination ordinance. That is to be, as Roberts said Monday, “... a welcoming community that honors and respects all people.”
It’s stunning that after all HB2 has cost North Carolina, the governor and legislative leaders don’t simply concede that this discriminatory and hastily drawn law is not worth the price. Indeed, HB2 isn’t worth anything. It requires that people in public buildings use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, but it addresses a problem that doesn’t exist and offers no provisions for enforcement or penalties for those who violate it. Beyond that, HB2 restricts local governments from adopting protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and forbids municipalities from setting a minimum wage.
HB2 denies the reality of transgender people and sanctions discrimination against all LGBT people. That’s why it has prompted the NBA, the NCAA, the ACC, tourists and companies to pull their events and dollars from North Carolina.
Republican leaders who refuse to repeal HB2 say they are standing up for “values” and protecting the safety and privacy of women and girls. That response was understandable at first, given that most of the public knew little about transgender people and that using the bathroom of one’s gender is, as the governor likes to say, “common sense.” But as the issue has come under intense scrutiny in the past six months, the number, challenges and rights of transgender people have come sharply into focus. With that – and the wave of protests and boycotts – it has also become clear that the only moral and effective response to this law is to repeal it entirely and without conditions.