Opinion: HB2’s Permanent Mark
With or without repeal, the damage is forever
We’ve come to a point in the dismal history of North Carolina’s House Bill 2 at which the General Assembly might serve its citizens better by cataloguing the damage it’s done to the state, and maybe trying to gauge whether the damage is permanent.
It’s an open question, probably unanswerable in full. But it’s the only one that remains. To the other question—will legislators repeal the law in any but the narrowest and most technical sense?—we have our answer: No. They won’t. One party’s representatives believe that gay and transgender people ought not to be treated as second-class citizens. The other party’s representatives believe, as catechism, that they not only should be but must be. The latter party can do whatever it wants with little or no consequence, electorally and otherwise. So it’s not going to change, not really, and you’d be foolish to expect otherwise.
Legislators have spent the past three months tying their limbs into knots to try to resolve the irresolvable through “compromise.” Each attempt has been more and more absurd. The latest is House Bill 186, proffered Wednesday by a bipartisan gang of four led by GOP Rep. Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville, that would enshrine discrimination in a slightly more palatable and nuanced form, the better to please economic development coordinators and hotel-motel association directors desperate to be able to tell their desired that North Carolina has repealed HB2.
This compromise bill pleases no one besides them. The governor took one bite and sent it back to the kitchen. Tami Fitzgerald of the N.C. Values Coalition rejected it on the grounds that it contains no provision specifically prohibiting the dreaded Kraken from rising out of the commode, roaring in demonic fury, and compromising the privacy and safety of our children. So throw that bill on the reject pile with the other compromises.
You might have seen that the Trump Justice and Education departments have decided to disregard Obama Administration guidelines on the rights of transgender students in school bathrooms—specifically, that denying a transgender student the right to use the restroom that matches his or her gender identity constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex.
Those guidelines touched off the entire debate over the last few years, including the reaction from a powerful Arizona evangelical group against ordinances like Charlotte’s; and the Republican National Committee’s January 2016 adoption of a resolution condemning the Obama Administration guidelines as “governmental overreach.” Newly installed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, during an interview Thursday at CPAC, condemned the Obama Administration guidelines as “overreach.” They’ve always had the messaging down. The federal government has caught up to the legislative majority in Raleigh. Why would the state back down now?
And that means this thing is ours now, out to the horizon. We were an answer on “Jeopardy!” We’re a point of reference, for a state whose citizens talk endlessly about secession, for what not to do.
“And because we damn sure ain’t gonna end up like North Carolina.” Roll that around in your mouth for awhile. See if you can’t get used to the taste it leaves, because it’s going to be there for years.