Politics & Government

Organizers of ‘Moral Monday’ protests demand repeal of HB2

The “Moral Monday” protest movement has set its sights on House Bill 2, which it has dubbed “Hate Bill 2.”

The Rev. William Barber, president of the NAACP in North Carolina, is calling for “mass sit-ins” when the state legislature convenes on April 25 – a Monday – unless lawmakers repeal the new law before then.

Repealing the law before legislators are scheduled to return to Raleigh would require a special session of the General Assembly.

If the law isn’t repealed, “we’ll be there on the first day of the legislature to dramatize how bad, how wrong, how corrupt, how unconstitutional this hate bill is. And that’s what we’re calling it,” Barber said Saturday after a news conference at Raleigh’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.

“We as citizens have got to stop this madness,” said Bishop Tonyia Rawls, executive director of the Freedom Center for Social Justice and pastor of Sacred Souls Community Church in Charlotte, at the news conference.

The law, which was passed last month at a special session, is known for its provision that invalidates an ordinance recently passed by the Charlotte City Council that would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender they identify with in places of public accommodation. But critics say the law has much broader ramifications because it also prohibits cities and counties from raising the minimum wage or passing their own anti-discrimination laws.

“It’s not about bathrooms, just like segregated bathrooms were never about bathrooms,” Barber said. “It was about a political statement. It was about oppression. It was about having public signs of domination.

“What we’re seeing going on now,” he said, “is the old Southern strategy where gay, trans- and homosexuality is the new bad word – in fact, the new N-word. It’s a tool of division in Southern politics the same way the N-word used to be a tool.”

Moral Monday protests have been held while the Republican-dominated legislature is in session since 2013, when laws passed were labeled immoral by the NAACP and others.

Barber said the lawmakers behind HB2 are exploiting the politics of fear and hate by using “code words.”

“They want to cover up this racism and this class-ism and this homophobia and try to split communities and have us talking about bathrooms rather than the bad policies,” he said.

Barber said that the law contains a provision that prohibits North Carolinians from filing discrimination claims in state court that goes far beyond LGBT individuals. Cases contending age discrimination or sex discrimination would also be prohibited, he said.

Officials with Gov. Pat McCrory’s office, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore could not be reached for comment Saturday. Lawmakers who supported HB2 have said they’re unwilling to allow transgender people to use a bathroom that doesn’t match their biological gender and that municipalities never had the power to enact their own nondiscrimination ordinances.

VIDEO: The News & Observer talks with transgender residents of the Triangle area of NC about their experiences and the impact of HB2 on their lives.

David Ranii: 919-829-4877, @dranii