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HB2 and the death of partisanship

by Jeff Sykes

To my knowledge the bathroom bill passed by our Republican overlords does not personally affect me. To the degree that my state has become a global laughing stock as our legislators swirl around the drainpipe, yes, in that regard I have been affected. It’s been strange to have the bathroom, and who goes in which one, be the dominant topic of conversation at the bars and coffee shops around Greensboro.

Stranger still has been having to watch as bigotry and ignorance raise their ugly heads. Even if shrouded by what the hayseeds running the General Assembly call “common sense” and sincerely held religious belief, it’s the type of thing I thought died with Jesse Helms. Never did I think that a collection of religious nitwits would gather together in the name of protecting white women and girls from the specter of transgender persons haunting public bathrooms and showers from Manteo to Murphy.

But they did. They did it in the year 2016. They gathered together with Christian flags and crosses on their desks in the state capitol and they voted. They voted in a stupor of discrimination to ostracize one of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities of interest in our society. My emotions since have ranged from disbelief to rage to a type of sadness reserved for personal loss. I feel the loss of a sense of dignity for my state. I rage against the mindset that reduces transgender persons to monsters hiding around the corner in the dark just waiting to pounce on someone in the ladies room. In disbelief I read columns and commentary, like the one found in another column in this week’s paper, that equate persons dealing with issues of transgender identity to school aged boys and girls sharing showers together.

But that’s all out there as well. Just consider Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s statement that the Charlotte ordinance that began the Republican rush to the mental gutter “would have given pedophiles, sex offenders, and perverts free rein to watch women, boys, and girls undress and use the bathroom.” This is the same guy that recently sent out on state letterhead a request to pastors in North Carolina to allow Lieutenant Dan to roam the stage at church in order that he might “share his story of faith.”

Jesus actually said “whatever you do unto the least of these you do unto me” but I’m assuming Lieutenant Dan didn’t get that far in his Bible. Stupid is as stupid does, Forest.

They didn’t stop there, mind you. No sir. With the damage done to the safety of transgender persons to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, of course the federal government stepped up to the plate in order to defend equality. You would have thought Lincoln sent troops across the Potomac; that hellfire and brimstone would shortly begin to rain down in Raleigh.

The US Department of Justice sent a well-reasoned letter to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on May 4 warning him that by signing HB2 he’s placed the state in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Violence Against Women Act. The three-page letter cited nine different federal court cases in which sex and sex-based considerations are included in definitions of discrimination.

Never mind the courts, dammit, we have “common sense” and our sincerely held bigoted beliefs to rely on. Damn the Yankee usurper, Republicans like Tim Moore and Phil Berger screamed in so many words. We won’t let the Obama administration and his handpicked wench bully the great state of North Carolina with their cool, rational legalese.

That’s when I began shaking my head in disbelief. There was the governor and the speaker of the house nullifying federal case law with a shake of their head and deference to “common sense.”

Jeezum crow! Never mind that Attorney General Loretta Lynch delivered one of the most beautiful and eloquent statements of all time when she put Pat and Lieutenant Dan on notice that the arc was bending toward justice. It was just a blink of an eye from there before people were calling McCrory “George Wallace 2.0” and a mere few days before the cartoons began showing McCrory standing in the door of a bathroom defending “Discrimination Forever!” Who cares that the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently ruled in a case that “equal access to restrooms is a significant, basic condition of employment, and that denying transgender individuals access to a restroom consistent with gender identity discriminates on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII.” Clearly not Pat and Lieutenant Dan and Tim and Phil.

No, they’re content to roll with the nuts on the religious right and drag our state right down into the filthiest gutter in recent political memory.

A casual review of the federal case law at play here will doom any misguided belief that HB2 isn’t discriminatory. There are nine cases and an EEOC decision cited in the May 4 letter. I challenge you to research those.

The Republican majority’s irrationality on this topic really brings about the death of partisanship. When one political group has gone so far off the rails, it has to be rejected by a rational society. But that’s the key problem here. North Carolina is basically a state with five or six urban centers surrounded by rural counties and tiny towns suffocating in the death throes of late-stage capitalism. Jobs are scarce there. Young people leave, never to return and contribute to the economic health of the community.

Amidst this suffering, religion remains the opiate of the suffering masses. !

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