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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Today’s Is HB 2’s First Birthday. Don’t Let It Have a Second.

Posted by on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 5:31 PM

click to enlarge SHAN STUMPF
  • Shan Stumpf

The process by which HB 2 was birthed, debated, voted on, passed, and signed into law exactly one year ago today lasted a little less than twelve hours. But the bill has defined our politics—and, to the outside world, our state—ever since.

Corporations fled. Big-name concerts canceled. The NBA, ACC, and NCAA all pulled marquee events. (This afternoon, news broke that the NCAA had issued an ultimatum: repeal HB 2 soon or lose NCAA events until 2022.) North Carolina has lost hundreds of millions of dollars. The governor lost his reelection bid. The state’s reputation as an intellectual bastion of the Deep South is in tatters.

Yet despite all of that—and the fact that less than a third of North Carolinians support HB 2, and the fact that most people on Jones Street agree that repeal is necessary—nothing has changed. It’s still there. And it still sucks.

Attempts at repeal have failed, mainly on account of Republicans wanting repeal in name only, something to get it off the books without pissing off the N.C. Values Coalition. The latest Lucy-and-the-football routine is an effort to pair a sort-of-HB 2 repeal—with the bathroom provision still intact—with an Indiana-style Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would, in essence, make it legal for bigots to discriminate against LGBTQ folks so long as they claimed a religious reason for doing so.

To the rest of the country, HB 2 is simply the embarrassing “bathroom bill.” But it’s worth remembering how much more than that it actually does. It doesn’t just attack transgender people. They were merely the bogeymen used to sell a further-reaching agenda. The law also forbade local governments from passing nondiscrimination or living wage ordinances. This, in fact, has become a sticking point in repeal talks: Republicans have sought either a moratorium on nondiscrimination ordinances or a provision that would allow them to be put to a referendum.

In short, Republicans don’t think North Carolina’s cities—the lifeblood of the state’s culture and economy—should be allowed to govern themselves, and instead think our morals and values should be dictated by rubes like Phil Berger and Dan Forest. (So much for local control.)

In a word, that’s insulting. In another word, it’s infuriating.

After a year, though, the outrage that engulfed HB 2—much of it aimed at former governor Pat McCrory—has subsided into more of a morass. HB 2 is a legislative quicksand from which we can’t extract ourselves, a Gordian knot we constructed but from which we can’t disentangle ourselves. We don’t have that singular target on which to focus our opprobrium, like we did with McCrory, who is now so disliked that he’s apparently having trouble finding a job. And so instead of being angry, we’re just tired of this shit.

A burning match can’t stay lit forever.

Which leads to this: yesterday, WRAL reported that Governor Roy Cooper was backing off his demand for a clean repeal, saying he would support a bill that had a moratorium on nondiscrimination ordinances, so long as that moratorium had a “definite end date.” (Cooper presumably is aware that Republicans have veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly and thus can extend that moratorium indefinitely at their whim.)

Berger immediately rejected the governor’s olive branch. So once again, we’re back to nowhere.

At this point, that’s for the best. Civil rights shouldn’t be subject to accommodation, not in the name of boosting GDP a half a percentage point, not in the name of bringing back Duke’s home-state advantage in the first rounds of the NCAA tourney, not in the name of getting Bruce Springsteen to play Red Hat. That many of the bill’s Democratic opponents—including Cooper—often discuss this legislation in those terms is kind of galling, to be honest. HB 2 should be opposed because it’s an affront to human decency, because it’s a shameful attack on an already-marginalized segment of our state’s population, because it empowers intolerance and hatred, because it aims to solve a problem that exists only in a transphobic fever dream, because we are better people than this.

And so, on HB 2’s first birthday, let’s resolve not to give in to the muddle, not to accept this as the status quo, not to let the fire die out.

Resolve to fight just as hard, to not give an inch, to be just as much a pain in the ass in the cause of civil liberties and human rights as you were last year. Don’t let the bastards win. Don’t let this thing turn two.

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