Trans individuals have finally gained basic rights in North Carolina, but it came with some caveats.
For the past year, legislators in North Carolina have been debating over the repeal of HB 2 (aka “the Bathroom Law”). HB 2 essentially made transgender individuals use private facilities (like bathrooms or locker rooms) that corresponded to their birth certificate and not to their gender identity. Many around the country saw North Carolina’s HB 2 as a discriminatory practice toward the LGBT community and has become a topic of conversation ever since.
Recently, North Carolina repealed the controversial HB 2 measure and replaced it with House Bill 142. Even though HB 142 does reverse the HB 2’s provision against trans individuals – they can now choose private facilities based on their gender identity in North Carolina – it comes with some pretty steep stipulations! Here are two important takeaways from North Carolina’s HB 142.
Takeaway #1: North Carolina’s HB 142 is a Legislative Half-Measure
The word you hear North Carolina’s representatives use when talking about HB 142 is “compromise.” For months, both sides of the “bathroom law” debate have presented their representative cases, and together North Carolina legislators feel that HB 142 is a good solution to multiple problems. However, the truth is HB 142 doesn’t really resolve the core issue that the bathroom debate presents; of allowing trans individuals to use private facilities that correspond to their gender identity, instead of their birth certificate.
The problem with HB 142 is that by compromising, it doesn’t answer that central question. Sarah Gillooly – ACLU North Carolina’s policy director – summed it up to Vox pretty succinctly in saying, “[HB 142] really ties the hand of local lawmakers in the short term but also in the long term.” That’s because even though the new bill essentially ends the ban of having trans individuals use private facilities based on their birth certificate, it comes with some major caveats.
For local municipalities, it essentially strips communities in making their own decisions when it comes to enacting local nondiscrimination ordinances until 2020. However, in 2020, the statewide protections that HB 142 offers trans individuals are also completely gone. So for more liberal areas in North Carolina, like the city of Charlotte, they no longer have the option of disallowing the “bathroom law”; even though their local government would side with trans individuals using private facilities based on their gender identity. The compromise here is while North Carolina is giving trans individuals the right to choose a bathroom based on their gender identity, it also only gives them this right for a certain number of years. Come 2020, the debate of bathroom laws will be sparked in the state all over again. Basically HB 142 does nothing more than kick the can down the road. In other words, HB 142 is a legislative half-measure and if history has told us anything, legislative half-measures usually solve nothing.
Takeaway #2: The Creation of HB 142 is More About Money Than Trans Rights
North Carolina’s HB 2 eventual repeal had less to do with the advancement of transgender rights and more to do with the fact that it’s bathroom law was starting to hurt the state financially. As we all know, North Carolina’s HB 2 became a topic of national conversation about a year ago. The reaction to HB 2 was generally negative, which not surprisingly, made organizations nervous of doing business with North Carolina.
Throughout the year, boycotts of businesses, sporting events, and other live attractions started to reconsider North Carolina as a venue due to the now national perception that the state was deliberately discriminating against the trans community in the US. Soon, North Carolina had gained the moniker of being the “Bathroom Bill State.” With it meant billion dollars of lost state revenue do to businesses not wanting to get entangled in the whole controversy.
When you take the loss of state revenue because of HB 2 into account, the provisions within HB 142 make a lot more sense. North Carolina, with HB 142, is trying to rid of themselves of the “bathroom law state” moniker. Yet the fundamental problem that North Carolina is having revolves around social conservatives who would like HB 2 to still be around.
For all intents and purposes, HB 142 is the best North Carolina could do to show nationally that they’re dropping the Bathroom Law provisions, while not actually moving on with the bathroom law debate. In that, HB 142 is most definitely a compromise, it’s push is strictly based on financial motives and nothing more.
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