House Democrats Introduce "Equality For All" Act | News
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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

House Democrats Introduce "Equality For All" Act

Posted by on Wed, May 11, 2016 at 11:55 AM

Add another to the list anti-HB 2 bills floating around the General Assembly that, unfortunately, will probably never see the light of day: this morning, Reps. Chris Sgro (Greensboro), Pricey Harrison (Greensboro), Susan Fisher (Asheville), and Kelly Alexander (Charlotte) introduced a comprehensive bill to give North Carolinians a broad non-discrimination law. The bill was filed Tuesday night. 

The bill, HB 1078, would add "protected status" to the General Statutes and ensure protections for people based on "race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, sex, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, military or veteran status, or genetic information."
click to enlarge Rep. Chris Sgro (D-Greensboro) introduces the Equality for All Act at a press conference on 5/11/16. - PAUL BLEST / INDY WEEK
  • Paul Blest / INDY Week
  • Rep. Chris Sgro (D-Greensboro) introduces the Equality for All Act at a press conference on 5/11/16.

Sgro, who is the executive director of Equality NC and the only openly gay member of the North Carolina legislature, called HB 2 the "elephant in the room," and said that the "damage done by HB 2 has been terrible to watch."

His bill, he said, "can once again make North Carolina where the weak grow strong, and the strong grow great." 

When asked if the bill has any chance of getting through the General Assembly, whose leaders have already said that they won't repeal HB 2, Sgro said that he's had productive conversations with leaders on both sides of the aisle. Two co-sponsors of Sgro's bill, Rep. Billy Richardson (Fayetteville) and Larry Bell (Duplin, Sampson, and Wayne County), voted for HB 2.

Richardson later penned an op-ed expressing regret for his decision, and last night filed his own bill with Reps. Duane Hall (D-Raleigh), Susi Hamilton (D-Wilmington), and Tricia Cotham (D-Charlotte) to repeal HB 2 and restore the state "cause of action" that allowed individuals to sue for discrimination at the state level prior to HB 2's passage. 

Bell, who said in an NPR interview last month he changed his mind on HB 2 after speaking with a former student, told the INDY  that he voted on HB 2 the way he usually does: how he thinks his constitutents would vote, saying that many of them "wouldn't see the entire bill," and would oppose the "bathroom issue."

"No way could I ever be characterized as someone who discriminates against anyone...that's not my nature," Bell said. "So anything to show that I am for equality for all people, I'll vote for that."

"I think that maybe there should be a better understanding of the transgender community than what we have, because people have not talked about that over the years," Bell continued. "I think that we're just not knowledgable about any problems they have had...the more I hear about it, the more that we talk about it, the more I really think we should repeal HB 2."

In addition to Sgro and his fellow primary sponsors, Videri Chocolate (Raleigh) co-CEO Sam Ratto and Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hlll) marketing director Travis Smith spoke in support of the bill and against HB 2. Hope Tyler, the Raleigh mother of a transgender son, spoke about the effect HB 2 is having on her son and other transgender children around the state. 

HB 2 is "emotionally killing our children," Tyler said, growing emotional when talking about her son's distress over HB 2. "Being a teenager is hard enough, but being trans on top of that is extremely overwhelming."

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