Saturday, March 26, 2016

They brought this on themselves

About a month ago Charlotte, North Carolina passed a pretty nice anti-discrimination law to protect LGBTQ people in all kinds of ways. Almost immediately the NC Legislature, dominated by the GOP, started saying we can't let this stand. One little problem at the time. The NC Legislature wasn't in session.

I suppose leadership waited until after the bill was written before calling in the troops. Last Wednesday, at the cost of $42,000, a special session was called. It took only five hours for the House to pass the bill 84-24 (a more than 3-1 margin). The vote was mostly along party lines.

In less than another five hours the Senate completed its turn. This time the 18 Democrats walked out, wanting no part of this nasty thing. The Senate has enough GOP members to keep a quorum and passed it with a vote of 31-0.

Shortly before 10 pm. Gov. Pat McCrory signed it. Though the threat hung out there for a month, the actual legislative process was done in a day, allowing no time for people to object.

McCrory used the old bathroom issue – that transgender people in particular would use Charlotte's ordinance to become predators in public bathrooms. We've heard this reason a lot recently, especially in the Houston ordinance. He also used the handful of Dem votes in the House to trumpet that the bill was bipartisan. Never mind the Dem senators refused to vote on it.

Yes, this bill is a nasty one. It rescinds LGBTQ rights in 10 cities across the state (Charlotte was the 10th). It kept the usual cases of race, religion, color, national origin, and age, then changed "sex" to "biological sex" to exclude sexual orientation and gender identity.

McCrory, in hopes of doing some damage control, issued a list of Myths and Facts. Of course, it blows smoke. Yes, cities can have ordinances that protect more of their employees from discrimination. But Charlotte's ordinance was about protecting the public. And private employers can have their own non-discrimination policies. But Charlotte's ordinance said corporate policies had to match that of the city. And so forth.

There is one more nasty thing in the bill which will catch more than LGBTQ people. It bans victims from challenging the law in state court. Victims would have to go through the federal system. No problem, right? Well, going through the state system had a three year statute of limitation. The federal system allows 180 days to file a claim with the EEOC and, if the EEOC approves the complaint, only 90 more days to file a lawsuit. So while a woman may still be protected under the NC law it is now much harder for her to fight for her rights.

The ACLU, Lambda Legal, and Equality North Carolina are already working to file legal challenges.

Protestors swarmed around the governor's mansion Thursday evening, a day after the bill was signed. Five were arrested for blocking traffic. Major employers, the biggest being IBM, denounce the new law, but so far haven't threatened to leave the state. Protestors are demanding these companies walk the talk.

To show how nasty he is, Senator Tom Abodaca is working out how to send that $42,00 cost of the special session to Charlotte. "Charlotte brought this on themselves."

Transman James Sheffield destroyed the reasoning McCrory used to justify the new law. Sheffield's tweet includs a picture of himself, complete with a beard. His comment directed at McCrory is, "It's now the law for me to share a restroom with your wife." Backlash from other areas, such as sports teams, is building.

Steve Bullock, governor of Montana, sent out a tweet: "Dear North Carolina, We're open for business... for everyone."

Meanwhile, the Georgia legislature has passed a religious liberty bill (yeah, a license to discriminate bill). Gov. Nathan Deal isn't as speedy as McCrory and hasn't signed it yet. Because of generous tax breaks for movie studios Georgia has a big movie industry. And all of these companies are telling Deal if you don't veto we pack up and leave.

Kerry Eleveld of Daily Kos notes that we were feeling pretty good last summer when the Supremes granted marriage equality. This backlash in North Carolina passed only 9 months later. Eleveld says we can't rely on the national organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign, to protect us. They aren't capable of that. We all must mobilize.

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