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What’s missing from HB2

Excerpted from a column by Steve Ford, volunteer Program Associate at the North Carolina Council of Churches, about the impact of N.C. House Bill 2.

The state’s declared policy is that job-seekers and job-holders should not be discriminated against “on account of race, religion, color, national origin, age, biological sex or handicap.” Places of public accommodation, and their services, should be available to everyone “free of discrimination because of race, religion, color, national origin or biological sex.”

Conspicuously missing from both categories, along with gender identity, is the gauge of sexual orientation. In other words — even with the legislature defining the groups of people who should be protected from discrimination — a decision was made to omit gays and lesbians. That is a huge problem, fueling much of the outrage that has since come to a boil in North Carolina and beyond.

The legislature, it has to be noted, in its recent phase under Republican control has been steadfastly hostile to gay and lesbian rights. It successfully maneuvered to pass a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage, and it approved, over McCrory’s veto, a measure allowing magistrates to opt out of performing same-sex weddings.

Setbacks in the courts clearly have done little to cool the homophobia swirling through the Legislative Building — a sentiment that, sad to say, appears to be alive and well among the state’s socially conservative voters. Administering another slap in the face to same-sex individuals, as they did with H.B. 2, must have had the feel of payback among legislators who also see gays and lesbians as useful political targets. …

The well-aimed opposition to H.B. 2 of many companies operating in North Carolina — from Wells Fargo to American Airlines to Apple — has been widely reported. Anyone familiar with today’s corporate environment, especially in tech-heavy fields where innovation is at a premium, understands the emphasis on hiring and retaining people on the basis of their talents — not factors as irrelevant as their sexual orientation or gender identity. …

The law’s supporters want us to stay focused on public restrooms and what they’d have us believe are the icky goings-on they’ve prevented by cracking down on transgenders’ use. Even at that level, they’d have us ignore the real hardships involved in barring people from using restrooms that match their gender identity rather than the sex listed on their birth certificate. …

Most broadly, H.B. 2’s champions seem to wallow in reckless disregard of the symbolism of their half-baked, poorly vetted and mean-spirited law.

The Council of Churches, with its traditions of tolerance and inclusiveness, is glad to join the calls arising from across North Carolina’s business and cultural landscape: Even while federal judges ponder H.B. 2’s dubious constitutionality, put it back on the legislative agenda and, as soon as possible, undo the damage.

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