Charlotte, North Carolina recently made the unforgivable mistake of moving into the 21st century by passing an anti-discrimination bill protecting the LGBTQ+ community. The North Carolina state government quickly intervened and passed one of the most anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the country. The law called, “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act,” forces transgender people to identify with the gender on their birth certificate, whether or not that’s how they identify. This law also prohibits cities and towns from passing LGBTQ+-inclusive non-discrimination protections.
North Carolina is not the only other state to pass a bill like this. Most recently, Tennessee and Arkansas have passed bills preempting local anti-discrimination laws. Houston this past year shot down a bill akin to the one in Charlotte. Fear mongering and ostracizing the transgender community has been effective in overturning anti-discrimination laws. Instead of focusing on the equality of all citizens the governor focused on demonizing an already maligned group in our society. The myth that pedophiles will take advantage of this law has been debunked time and again. According to the Huffington Post, “Currently, 17 states and 200 local governments prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations, without any of the problems that opponents of these protections dream up.”
Governor Pat McCory said that the protections for the transgender community will, “create major public safety issues by putting citizens in possible danger from deviant actions by individuals taking improper advantage of a bad policy.”
Homophobia and transphobia are still dominant issues within the United States. Sure, we are better than many countries around the globe, but the ideas passed down through the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are based around the fact that we can always do better. It is the imperative of all United States citizens to recognize the injustice around us and speak out against it. What we must do now, as students and citizens is realize that the war of love and equality is long from over. We deal with threats to equality and freedom all around us.
Not all is lost though. A lot of recent discrimination laws have either failed or been toned down because of the reaction from the public or even worse, the private sector. When LGBTQ+ people are the subject of discrimination in the back offices of government they are ignored and their rights are trampled on. But once protestors get out into the streets or businesses make threats that’s when it is for real.
In Indiana, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, had such a bad reception in the business community, just days later a law was passed that protected LGBTQ+ individuals. One main reason that N.C. passed this discrimination bill is that businesses didn’t make a big enough fuss, there was little time to discuss and protest it, and that it was shrouded in its transphobic bathroom fear mongering. People’s stigma towards the transgender community is still far too dominant in our culture.
The state schools could also lose out on 4 billion dollars in federal funding. State officials are speaking up, N.C. attorney general said, “Not only is this new law a national embarrassment, it will set North Carolina’s economy back if we don’t repeal it,” Roy Cooper said. “We know that businesses here and all over the country have taken a strong stance in opposition to this law.”
Comedian Sam Bee pointed out in eloquent and hilarious fashion how Democratic voters who didn’t show up to vote in 2010 let the most conservative politicians take foot in the senate. That was the year of the Tea Party, when 44 neo-libertarian and ultra-conservative Republicans took power in Congress. Democrats now only hold on to the executive. If there’s any motivation for liberal voters to get out and vote in 2016, whether it’s Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, is that we need to stave off these dehumanizing laws. Clinton and Sanders have made that the forefront of their campaigns, but having legislators all across the country who will protect the rights of our fellow citizens will be crucial to social progress.
The following is from a Daily Beast article. Madeleine Gauss, a transgender woman living in Raleigh, said of her hometown, “I was bullied and tortured and beaten mercilessly there, and where did it happen, it happened in the men’s room, this place is a place of danger for people like me. I can’t use the men’s room. I won’t go back to the men’s room. It is unsafe for me there. People like me die there.” The problem isn’t with trans people. It is our stigma and hatred we must overcome. We must address our apathy.
Mark Kobzik is a junior majoring in English/journalism.