Margaret Spellings was recently named the UNC Systems President before the House Bill Two was put into order. (Contributed Photo)
On February 22nd in Charlotte, N.C., an ordinance was passed that would expand North Carolina’s anti-discrimination laws for LGBT people would have protection in places of “public accommodation” and allow them to use bathrooms based on the gender they identify as.
The ordinance was supposed to go in effect on April 1 but on March 23rd North Carolina’s General Assembly proposed and passed the House Bill 2 (HB2) also known as the “bathroom bill” that was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory that same night.
The new law did more than just repeal the ordinance in Charlotte. It made the state’s law on antidiscrimination, which covers race, religion, national origin, color, age, biological sex and handicaps; the final word.
This would mean that cities and local governments can’t expand “employment” or “public accommodations” protections to others, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Proponents of the new law say that Charlotte’s measure expanding North Carolina’s anti-discrimination law was governmental overreach by the city. They also argue that this is a matter of safety for women and children in public restrooms and showers.
But LGBT activists say that safety hasn’t been an issue in the 18 states or the more than 100 cities where protections for gay and transgender people already exist.
Bill Not Enforced
Margaret Spellings, the UNC Systems President, wrote in a court exhibit that UNC schools will not be affected by the HB2 bill financially. She wrote that because the law isn’t being enforced, the UNC schools are not being forced to comply with the HB2 Bill.
Any school receiving federal funding that implemented HB2 would be in direct contradiction of Title IX which would be a liability and loss potential to $4.5 billion of federal spending from the Department of Education.
On April 5, Spellings sent a memorandum entitled: Guidance Compliance with the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act or “Guidance Memorandum.”
In this document sent to each chancellor at all UNC schools, it is stated that “[HB2] does not require University institutions to change their nondiscrimination policies, and those policies should remain in effect.”
Although UNC schools won’t face major funding losses, the backlash from the law has been widespread throughout the state from officials from other states to dozens of North Carolina based businesses to national corporations and organizations like ESPN, the NBA, the NCAA, as well as Hollywood filmmakers.
Paypal canceled an expansion plan that was to be based in NC and Lionsgate motion pictures backed out of shooting a film.
In April the UK government put out a warning for their travelers coming to the state. The NBA, after many rumors announced in July, that they will not be hosting the All-Star game at the Charlotte Hornets Arena in February of 2017.
North Carolina isn’t the only state that’s been caught up in these discrimination debates. Since January, almost 200 anti-LGBT bills have been introduced in states, which many people see as reactions to last June’s Supreme Court marriage-equality ruling.
The White House Responds
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest criticized North Carolina’s new law that bans local governments from passing local anti-discrimination ordinances and dictates that transgender residents use the public restrooms of their biological sex.
“This Administration is strongly committed to advancing the cause of equality for LGBT Americans and to ensuring that they do not face discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love,” Earnest said in a statement.
ODI Offers Support for Students
Here at UNC-Pembroke the Office of Diversity & Inclusion strives to assist students and help them find their voices even in the midst of the HB2 bill controversy. Director for ODI, Dr. Robert L. Canida wants students to know that even due to the HB2 law their office is resource for students from all students including the LGBT community.
“ [HB2] already has hurt our state from an economic standpoint,” he said. “We’re looked as almost going backwards instead of forwards,” Dr. Canida said.
According to Dr. Canida, ODI can direct transgender students to all gender-neutral bathrooms on campus if they come by the office. He said that if anyone feels their rights have been violated they could talk to legal counsel in Lumbee Hall.
“To me what is most important is academic freedom. Academic freedom, critical thinking, and social justice which is what we try to live by here,” he said.