Civil Rights groups in North Carolina are not happy about Governor Pat McCrory's decision to sign into law a bill that nullified local authority to define and deter discrimination.
The Governor's decision followed the Charlotte City Council's controversial decision to allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom facility of their preference. In signing HB2, however, McCrory not only forestalled the April 1 effective date of the Charlotte Bathroom Ordinance, but he also set in motion a firestorm of anti-discrimination backlash toward the state.
"I'm deeply concerned that the Governor and General Assembly have come in and usurped the power of the city council and undermined the process of the people," said Minister Corine Mack, President of the Charlotte NAACP. "They have gone too far in restricting basic human rights."
Mack also took issue with the expeditious manner in which the General Assembly voted for HB2.
"They refused to pass the text listed in the discriminatory profiling bill that would end people of color being harassed and killed by law enforcement — something that's happening around the state," Mack told NBCBLK in an interview. "They won't do anything around that…the state won't even write a uniform civil rights bill for businesses, and won't do what's right to ensure that people have a good quality of life here. But they will attach additional wording and law in places that really strip the very fiber of rights for folks around housing, jobs and employment…I am so disgusted."
The National Basketball Association was among the first to speak out last Thursday, one day after the bill was signed into law with the following statement: "We are deeply concerned that this discriminatory law runs counter to our guiding principles of equality and mutual respect and do not yet know what impact it will have on our ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte."
The Charlotte Hornets followed by releasing a statement on Friday, noting that they "are opposed to discrimination in any form, and we have always sought to provide an inclusive environment... we will continue to ensure that all fans, players and employees feel welcome while at work or attending NBA games and events at Time Warner Cable Arena."
Even NBA MVP Stephen Curry, who is from North Carolina and went to Davidson College, weighed in, "I know the NBA has a stance on equality and incorporating all beliefs and people from all sorts of backgrounds…Hopefully, the right things…happen for the All-Star Game to stay in Charlotte."
But the issue facing Charlotte is much bigger than whether the city will host the 2017 All-Star game, and it implicates far more than which restroom facilities transgender people may use. Based on the outcry thus far, beyond the bathroom provisions, HB2 undermines the ability of local and state authorities to define and protect discrimination in other arenas as well.
The law, which was voted on during a one-day special session last Wednesday, changes the way discrimination is defined and requires people to pursue such claims through federal, not state, courts. It also removes the ability of city and county officials to set minimum wage standards for private employers.
Further, the law curtails employment rights and protections for gay and transgender people, meaning that people can be fired for their sexual orientation or identity.
Dr. Patrick C. Graham, President & CEO for the Urban League of Central Carolinas, sees the discriminatory impact of HB2 as well. "When I look at the issue with the LGBT community, it goes beyond that when you look at what else [the legislature] snuck into the bill. Think about the implications that it has in the private sector, and government has to enforce that," he told NBCBLK.
Calling this latest affront to anti-discrimination part of a larger campaign against racial, economic, and political autonomy, Graham said the legislature's action is based on "fear of the very diversity that actually could make America and North Carolina strong. They are so preoccupied with thinking that this is a zero sum game, that if others gain, somehow they lose, and that's not the case."
"We've had these lessons in the past," Graham said. "Is North Carolina trying to become our 21st century Mississippi?"
HB2 is already being contested. A lesbian law professor and two transgender people, flanked by the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and Equality North Carolina, filed a lawsuit earlier today claiming that this law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
"This is a call to action," said Graham. "What you see in Raleigh is almost like an attempt to put off the inevitable. This is like a Superman where there is no kryptonite - it's going to happen."