North Carolina Tweaked Its Controversial LGBTQ Laws, But It’s Not Nearly Enough
North Carolina outraged many, from artists like Adam Levine and Selena Gomez to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, earlier this year when the state passed a law mandating individuals must use public restrooms that correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth. Many were hopeful state lawmakers would vote on whether or not to repeal the law Friday evening, but they adjourned for the year without holding a vote. Some changes were made to North Carolina’s LGBTQ laws in a proposed “compromise” bill approved by the state legislature and sent to Republican Governor Pat McCrory, who has already praised the bill.
Not only is the compromise bill nowhere near enough, as it leaves the state’s LGBTQ individuals vulnerable and discriminated against, but some of its changes ultimately leave transgender individuals and other marginalized groups even worse off.
Sure, the bill McCrory will likely sign restores workers’ right to sue over employment discrimination, but it offers no specific, much-needed protections to workers who are discriminated against based on sexual orientation or identity. On a slightly positive note, the bill does “increase penalties for those who commit crimes against people in public bathrooms,” which should be to the benefit of transgender individuals who are predominantly the ones who face harassment and abuse in bathrooms while there has yet to be a recorded incident of a transgender person verbally or physically abusing a cis-gender person in a bathroom.
However, this clause has likely been interpreted by conservative proponents of the transgender bathroom restriction as a protection for women against all the “scary” trans people they think are men masquerading as women just to assault people in restrooms. (Meanwhile, in the real world, almost nothing is being done by conservatives to protect women from the actual threat of male, cis-gender rapists.)
It’s worth noting that the modified bill removes the word “biological” from its restrictions, which gives LGBTQ people some leverage to argue for their rights in courts.
The original law, passed in March, is famous for banning “transgender individuals from deciding on their own which bathrooms to use,” as Time put it, but it additionally “gutted state-level civil rights protections for women, minorities and people of faith.” The modified bill only makes the situation worse for quite literally everyone by prohibiting all cities within North Carolina from individually passing their own nondiscrimination laws to counter the state’s.
North Carolina drew criticism last week for proposing a registry for transgender individuals, because apparently trans people now need permission slips to use public restrooms, which is frankly the farthest thing from equal treatment under the law I’ve heard of in a long, long time. The argument was that this registry wouldn’t be a matter of public record and would only be seen by transgender individuals and their “representatives,” but I don’t quite follow how this would be to the benefit of literally anyone, least of all trans people who would only be further singled out and marginalized. Whether or not this provision was part of the modified bill approved by the state legislature is unclear.
North Carolina is currently being sued by the Department of Justice, which the state proceeded to sue back in what will probably go down as one of the messiest, most transphobic feuds in recent history. Meanwhile, the ACLU is suing Governor McCrory, the NBA is considering relocating its February 2017 All-Star Game (which has traditionally always been held in Charlotte), and corporations are taking their business elsewhere to dodge the great bullet of transphobia that is North Carolina. I doubt the modifications recently passed by the state legislature will do anything to help the situation.