Thursday, March 30, 2017

A repeal that isn’t

The North Carolina HB2 “Bathroom Bill” is back in the news because it has been repealed. There is no exclamation point for that sentence because the replacement is still discriminatory.

This bill was enacted a couple years ago. It had several anti-LGBT provisions, the most notorious being that trans people could not use the bathroom that matched their gender identity. The law was enacted swiftly after Charlotte passed a city ordinance protecting LGBT people. The response was also swift. Many entertainment and sports events moved from NC and several businesses decided to not expand in the state.

The new bill, signed today by Democrat Governor Roy Cooper, is actually quite short:

* The old bill is repealed.

* No state institution or city can pass a law about multiple occupancy bathrooms, showers, or changing facilities. This means we’re back to the bathroom regulations before HB2 was passed – there weren’t laws banning transgender people from using the bathroom of choice, but now there can’t be laws protecting that choice.

* No local government may enact LGBT protections in employment or public accommodation until Dec. 1, 2020.

So the state legislature said we don’t care about bathroom use anymore (under HB2 nobody was checking anyway and there were no penalties in the bill). But they also said there will be no new protections for LGBT people (like Charlotte tried to provide) for another 3½ years.

Conservative groups are annoyed because bathrooms are, in their view, no longer safe from trans people – men in dresses. Progressives are annoyed because of the ban on passing LGBT protections. It is still legal to discriminate against us and will remain so.

A bathroom bill died in Arkansas after opposition from the governor and from tourist groups. Governor Asa Hutchinson is not a friend to progressives. He opposed it because it might hurt business. In some states we’ll take our wins any way we can.

An anti-marriage equality bill in Tennessee will be delayed for a year. It would have required the state attorney general to defend city clerks who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

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