The sunset of NC’s repeal of HB2 could have far-reaching effects, potentially impacting local non-discrimination ordinances and, even, minimum wage rules.
On Dec. 1, one key prong of North Carolina’s repeal of HB2 officially elapsed.
State lawmakers’ 2017 rewrite of the deeply polarizing “bathroom bill” included a ban on local non-discrimination ordinances for more than three years. That component earned fresh criticism for the original GOP authors of HB2 and the Democrats, including Gov. Roy Cooper, who backed the repeal compromise in House Bill 142.
HB2 was ostensibly written to require that people used public restrooms corresponding to their birth gender, although it also baked in a host of other anti-LGBTQ components. The law spurred a wave of criticism for state lawmakers. And in addition to the hit on NC’s image, the bill cost the state an estimated $3.76 billion in economic activity as companies, sports leagues, and entertainers avoided NC following its passage.
Not surprisingly, NC-based LGBTQ equality groups like Equality North Carolina and the Campaign for Southern Equality are now urging local and state lawmakers to pass LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances.
To commemorate the repeal’s sunset, Equality NC & the Campaign for Southern Equality launched a digital platform through which North Carolinians can contact local lawmakers and voice their support for nondiscrimination.
Allison Scott, director of policy & programs at Campaign for Southern Equality and a transgender woman, spoke to Cardinal & Pine about the sunset of HB 142 and its effect on the lives of both heteronormative and LGBTQ North Carolinians.
C&P: Give us a simple explanation of what’s happening with HB 142.
Scott: Well, the simplest form of that is HB 142 was basically an HB2 bill that was repackaged and put into effect. HB 142 limited local cities and towns across North Carolina from passing ordinances in a very specific way. Oftentimes, those were non discrimination. But it also included things such as setting the minimum wages for those individual cities. The other piece of 142 was the regulation of bathrooms and multi-stall facilities. Now that piece does not sunset and that piece still lies within the legality and the structure of the NC General Assembly to change.
C&P: What does the sunset of HB 142 mean for the LGBTQ+ community?
Scott: It’s going to enable local cities and towns to pass non-discrimination ordinances in two areas. One is private employment, and (the other is) in public accommodations. What that would literally look like is, for employers smaller than 50, you can’t fire someone because of their gender identity or for their sexual orientation. For public accommodations like a hotel or rideshare, no one can deny you a room at a hotel because you’re trans. A rideshare driver cannot pull up and say, “Hey, I’m not gonna give you a ride because you’re gay, or you’re trans.”
It also opens up the possibility for cities to increase the minimum wage in their locality and it offers unique protections that can be offered to people who are pregnant or veterans. We really see this as a chance to not only protect LGBTQ people, but also create this momentum of progress to move the needle forward for equality in a lot of other areas.
C&P: What is it like to live in a world where you aren’t guaranteed equal rights just because of how you choose to identify?
Scott: I identify as a trans woman and, in speaking with people, the stories that we hear are just heartbreaking. When you’re sitting there and you pull up your phone, and you request a rideshare, and they pull up and literally laugh at you and drive off. It’s heartbreaking and the trauma that inflicts lives with people all their lives.
When you make the brave and courageous step of coming out in your life and coming out in your job, and then to be fired, and told, that’s the reason that you’re being let go, and it doesn’t matter, your previous history, how good it was, everything hinges on the point that you may not fit a heteronormative lifestyle. It never leaves you, it makes you terrified to be authentic in all of your life. We hear the stories all the time.
Personally, for me, I was working in the private sector at the time of HB2 and 142. And the only thing that protected me when I came out as trans was an executive order under the Obama administration, protecting federal contractors.
I worked for a very large multinational company and we were a federal contractor and a group of employees actually went to HR and said, “Hey, why don’t we fire Allison? Because now it’s legal, we have HB2.”
That was gut wrenching to me.
The effects of these bills are going to be with us all of our lives. Black trans women, especially, the amount of discrimination they face is even higher. When we get into minorities of minorities, we just see the level of hate ratchet up even more to the very point of their lives being at risk.
C&P: We know that progressive cities like Charlotte and Asheville will probably take action when HB 142 sunsets, but do you anticipate the rest of the state falling in line?
Scott: I think the whole state has learned a lot from HB2 and I don’t know of anybody that really wants to revisit those kinds of bills. So I think going forward, we’re going to see multi-city momentum build where multiple cities will come out and pass legislation at the same time, or within days of each other. Just to show that this is not just one city, this is a North Carolina issue.
In polls that have been conducted, we know 67% of North Carolinians support LGBTQ people having these protections. These are not unique and North Carolina won’t be the first, there’s over 300 cities in the United States that currently have these protections in place.
So this is not revolutionary, we’re not talking about being the very first with these kinds of laws. We’re talking about something that has been done and that the public expects should be done.