Sen. Phil Berger is like someone standing in the midst of a thunderstorm, as hail pounds dents in cars and tornado warnings flash on websites and alarm bells rings on cell phones. But he says, “Oh, it’s not that bad, and I believe it’s about to let up.”
But the storm over HB2, the maddening and destructive law passed by the Republican-led General Assembly denying anti-discrimination protections for those in the LGBT community (specifically, forbidding those who are transgender from using the bathrooms of the gender with which they identify) isn’t letting up. And North Carolina now stands virtually alone in defending the kind of policies HB2 endorsed and made law.
Other states have backed away from similar measures. The Boy Scouts, a conservative organization by an definition, now will let transgender boys participate in programs. President Trump is leaving intact an executive order issued by President Obama that ensured protections in the workplace for LGBT people, even as some of Trump’s other ideas are said to be unfriendly to the gay community.
But Berger, having failed to get his caucus behind HB2 repeal in a special session, stands firm in the storm. He said in an interview with Time Warner Cable News last week that outright repeal was unlikely, and Berger continues to drag out the same old targets for his wrath.
“My job,” he said, “is not to give into the demands of multimillionaire celebrities pushing a pet social agenda, liberal newspapers like The New York Times or big corporations who have every freedom to set whatever policies they wish under this law.”
The problem is, HB2 is hurting the average North Carolinians Berger, the Senate president pro-tem, says he represents.
The state has lost thousands of jobs and millions and millions of dollars because of employers who won’t come to the state or have changed their plans to do so. Margaret Spellings, president of the University of North Carolina system, said scholars are not coming to the state because of what they know about HB2.
Berger’s stance is increasingly lonely, and likewise wasteful. He appears to be standing firm out of little more than anger at opponents who have made him look foolish and pure, destructive stubbornness. For Berger to indulge himself in this show of power will continue to cost the state jobs and money.
It’s still raining. And it’s not going to let up.