By now you have likely heard of the recent legislation passed in North Carolina causing a backlash from the LGBT Community as well as many other allies in the civil rights community. North Carolina’s HB2 is controversial not only for the fact that it was designed specifically to reverse protections granted to the trans community to have access to bathrooms without persecution, but also because it was passed in a special session that seems to have had no other goal than to disenfranchise this group.
It is not just happenstance that most of the civil rights community has spoken against this law, but here are some reasons the disability community should find it exceptionally distasteful:
- Insult to injury – HB2 has been offered by the North Carolina Legislature as a means of protecting the rights of North Carolinians, from being discriminated against by its transgender citizens, making HB2, likely the most significant piece of discriminatory legislation shrouded in righteousness since the inclusion of the Jesse Helms Box in the American s with Disabilities Act. (Another banner day for North Carolina.)
- Scumbag Legislator – The references to HB2 are also all titles that a common sense person would never consider changing, much less pay attention to like “Wage and Hour” or “Multiple Occupancy Bathroom facilities” Though the obvious goal of the bill is to protect North Carolinians from Transgender Citizens this important closed door issue wasn’t so important that they needed to be honest in the title.
- Crabs in a Barrel – HB2 does not apply to people using bathrooms (1) For custodial purposes, for maintenance or inspection purposes, to render medical assistance, or to accompany a person needing assistance. This deference being paid to caregivers is definitely a testament to the work of disability advocates, but it seems to assume that the disability community will be satisfied with discrimination of others as long as they can have their PA or caregiver. Not only is this a blatant attempt to create a hierarchy of civil rights and access among the civil rights communities, it makes one wonder if the North Carolina Legislature is even aware of the LGBT population that also consider themselves people with disabilities.
- Systematic Discrimination – In another parallel with civil rights and specifically disability rights legislation, HB2 addresses all Agencies, boards, offices, departments, and institutions of the executive branch, including The University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Community College System. Much like the Rehab Act or the ADA, North Carolina seeks to make this discriminatory law a part of the state culture and general norms. By making this policy a part of schooling it means that not only will be we discriminating we will be teaching future generations to hate as well. Even state and county contractors may not be compelled to act decently by the details of their contracts meaning this will be a cemented part of the North Carolina employment culture as well.
- Why Can’t We Quit You – Not only has NC passed this crap legislation they have made it exceptionally difficult for it to be undone or even challenged. HB2 has a provisions saying that it “supersedes and preempts” any other law or legislation and that “no person may bring any civil action based upon the public policy expressed herein.” This should bring rage to any of us that watched the ADA, Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act be sapped of their efficacy but legislation like this gets to sit on a pedestal.
- You Shall Not Pass – In addition to addressing the right of trans individuals to use the
bathrooms of choice at school, it addresses the issue of bathrooms at work by not only removing access to bathrooms but also employment. HB2 removed many of the ordinances that could protect LGBT North Carolina Citizens from being fired because of their identity. As if matters could not get even worse, HB2 has the capacity to unravel protections that have been enacted to protect any marginalized groups in North Carolina. The Charlotte Observer notes specifically that the law affects “how people can pursue claims of discrimination because of race, religion, color, national origin, biological sex or handicap [sic], sending those claims through the federal system instead of state courts. The law also means a city or county cannot set a minimum wage standard for private employers.”
The choice that the North Carolina Legislature has made is a bad choice and should not be supported by anyone who believes in inclusion or equality. Considering the importance of access to the disability community, such a blatant restriction on public facilities should raise an ADAPT sized rally of red flags, but it also points to the short memory of the North Carolina legislature. We have all seen these restrictions before placed upon lunch counters, water fountains, schools and ultimately the workplace as well. They represent the most heinous discriminatory practices that have been utilized to marginalize any American that fits into the box of the other. Like those other cases, these restrictions are being placed upon citizens of the state. These are not strangers these are not criminals, these are not immigrants. North Carolina is seeking the restrict their trans citizens from using facilities and participating in an employment system that the Trans community in North Carolina has paid for. They have paid with their personal investment in their homes, their dedication to their community, but most importantly with their tax dollars, and have as much a right to the usage of these facilities as any other citizen of the State.
If you are a member of the disability community you have 6 reasons listed above to cause you to foam at the mouth about HB2, but in reality you only need one: In one of his most famous quotes, Martin Luther King Jr. compares justice to a well made shirt (and if you are wondering it was Jesus’s shirt). When crucified, Jesus clothes were split among his guards, but his shirt could not be split because it was woven out of one piece, so instead of tearing it (which would ruin the shirt) the guards placed bets on it to see who would get the garment. Normally we use this quote to denote how if we unravel or tear a part of a garment we will ruin it, in the same way that if we unravel or tear a part of our freedom we will ruin that as well. This quite also points to another truth that is as true today as it was in MLK’s time. Much like those guards, we are competing to see who will have possession of our freedom. We must take this game seriously if we are going to win because rest assured, everyone is vying to take that garment of freedom – of destiny– away.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.