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With lawsuit filed, Republicans stand firm on recently passed bathroom bill

Bad for business, people

The following letter was sent to Gov. Pat McCrory.

I am writing with concern about legislation you signed into law this week, H.B. 2, which has overturned protections for LGBT people and sanctioned discrimination across North Carolina. Put simply, H.B. 2 is not a bill that reflects the values of our company, our country or even the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians.

I am disappointed in your decision to sign this discriminatory legislation into law. The business community, by and large, has consistently communicated to lawmakers at every level that such laws are bad for our employees and bad for business. This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development.

We believe that H.B. 2 will make it far more challenging for businesses across the state to recruit and retain the nation’s best and brightest workers and attract the most talented students from across the nation. It will also diminish the state’s draw as a destination for tourism, new businesses and economic activity.

Discrimination is wrong, and I believe it has no place in North Carolina or anywhere in our country. As a company that prides itself on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge you and the leadership of North Carolina’s legislature to repeal this law in the upcoming legislative session.

— Dyke Messinger

Salisbury

The writer is president and CEO of Power Curbers in Salisbury.

By Josh Bergeron 

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

Despite a federal lawsuit, opposition from major businesses and national criticism, North Carolina’s Republican leaders aren’t budging from their deep-seated support of a controversial bill introduced and passed last week within 12 hours.

The bill restricts restroom use to a person’s biological sex and supersedes local ordinances on issues such as increasing the minimum wage. Local governments will also be unable to establish certain regulations or controls on contractors as a conditions of bidding. In a special session last week, state legislators approved the measure by a bipartisan count in the State House and 32-0 in the State Senate. Democrats walked out of Senate chambers in protest before the vote.

House Bill 2 was passed in response to a Charlotte ordinance that would’ve allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of his or her choice. The special session started Wednesday and ended the same day. House Bill 2 had the support of all of Rowan County’s legislators. Rep. Harry Warren, R-Salisbury, was a co-sponsor.

Republican leaders frame House Bill 2 as protecting women and children. Opponents say the bill is blatantly discriminatory. It was reason enough for a trio of organizations — the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and Equality North Carolina — to file a lawsuit in opposition to the measure in federal court.

“We’re challenging this extreme and discriminatory measure in order to ensure that everyone who lives in and visits North Carolina is protected under the law,” ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director Chris Brook said in a news release. “This cruel, insulting and unconstitutional law is an attack on fairness in employment, education and local governance that encourages discrimination against thousands of LGBT people who call North Carolina home, and particularly targets transgender men and women.”

The groups filed suit in North Carolina’s U.S. Middle District Court against Gov. Pat McCrory, Attorney General Roy Cooper, the University of North Carolina, its board of governors and the board’s chairman. Cooper, who is challenging McCrory for governor in November’s elections, is a defendant because his office defends the state in litigation. When asked whether Cooper would defend the state in court, attorney general’s office spokeswoman Noelle Talley said the office had no immediate statement.

In addition to the advocacy organizations, plaintiffs include two transgender people and a lesbian law professor. The suit alleges that House Bill 2 violates the equal pay and due process clauses of the 14th amendment and violates Title IX by discriminating against students and employees based on the basis of sex.

Plaintiffs in the suit join dozens of national and international businesses and organizations that have also expressed opposition to the bill. Salisbury-based Power Curbers President and CEO Dyke Messinger wrote a letter to McCrory Monday that calls House Bill 2 “discriminatory legislation.”

“This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development,” Messinger wrote. “We believe H.B. 2 will make it far more challenging for businesses across the state to recruit and retain the nation’s best and brightest workers and attract the most talented students from across the nation. It will also diminish the state’s draw as a destination for tourism, new business and economic activity. ”

Tamara Sheffield, the president of local LGBT advocacy group Salisbury Pride, said she’s proud that a number of businesses are opposed to the measure. When asked about House Bill 2, Sheffield said it may be difficult for people who haven’t been the target of discrimination to understand how it feels.

“If you haven’t been on the receiving end of those kinds of things, you do have a hard time connecting to that or understanding it,” she said. “For whatever reason, when it comes to LGBTQ issues, people get very fearful, and they’re fearful because they have a lack of knowledge.”

Sheffield said transgender women want to use female bathrooms because they live their lives as women.

“She’s born as a male, but fully lives her life as a female,” Sheffield said.

Regardless of the opposition, Rowan’s legislators and others across the state say they stand behind House Bill 2. Warren counters that a transgender woman after a sex change is able to legally alter a birth certificate to comply with the law and use the bathroom of her choice. When asked about the minimum wage provision, Sen. Andrew Brock, R-34, said North Carolina should have one, consistent pay rate. He largely didn’t address LGBT discrimination. Instead, Brock and other state officials mostly focused on the possibility that a man would enter a female restroom facility because of a sexual desire.

“I look at that as the primary issue to begin with,” Brock said. “The people that are going to do this aren’t good people to begin with. They’re mentally imbalanced. They’re sexual deviants. They want to expose themselves to children.”

Brock and Warren said the law doesn’t discriminate or take away any rights. Both pointed out that the bathroom-related provision only applies to governmental facilities such as schools. Businesses have the right to choose whether to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of his or her choice, Brock and Warren said.

Brock specifically questioned concerns about whether the bill violates Title IX — which requires that educational programs, districts and activities that received federal funds operate in a nondiscriminatory manner.

“If you want to use Title IX for bathrooms, then does that mean you have to have a men’s basketball team, a women’s basketball team, a men who think they’re women basketball team and women who think they are men basketball team?” Brock asked. “It’s just getting a little ridiculous and trying to be too politically correct.”

N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger, a Republican from Rockingham, on Monday also spoke out in favor of House Bill 2.

“While they’ve accused the state of disrespecting local control, the irony is far-left groups like the national ACLU, their out-of-state lawyers and Attorney General Roy Cooper want to use North Carolina as a pawn in their extreme agenda to force women and young girls to welcome grown men into their bathrooms and locker rooms nationwide,” Berger said in a prepared statement.

Before House Bill 2 passed, a number of critics of the legislature’s special session pointed out the $42,000 required to meet for one day. Sheffield said the state could’ve hired an additional teacher rather than “move the state backward.”

Sheffield said state legislators may have created more danger by passing the bill. She said a masculine-looking woman who are not transgender might be attacked when entering a bathroom because of anxiety created by political rhetoric.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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