North Carolina’s HB2 treats gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as “second-class citizens” and has raised scrutiny in Washington about federal funding provided in several areas – including education, transportation and health programs, according to the state’s congressional Democrats in a letter sent Thursday to Gov. Pat McCrory.
U.S. Reps. Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield and David Price signed the letter sent to McCrory and legislative leaders, urging them “in the strongest possible terms” to repeal HB2.
The three Democrats warn that House Bill 2 – a nondiscrimination law that soared through North Carolina’s General Assembly last month and excludes LGBT people – jeopardizes millions of North Carolina residents’ workplace-discrimination protections due to a clause addressing how legal action may be filed in the state.
HB2 also prohibits North Carolina cities and counties from adopting their own nondiscrimination ordinances or policies, which is what happened in Charlotte earlier this year to prompt legislation action in Raleigh.
“In short, this law codifies discrimination,” Price, Butterfield and Adams wrote in the letter Thursday.
They urged McCrory, Statehouse Speaker Tim Moore and state Senate Majority Leader Philip Berger, all Republicans, to take action when the legislature begins its new session next week.
Berger has stated emphatically that he won’t support efforts to repeal HB2.
“My job is not to give in to the demands of multimillionaire celebrities pushing a pet social agenda, liberal newspapers like The New York Times, big corporations who have every freedom to set whatever policies they wish under this law,” Berger said Wednesday during a news conference.
Since HB2 passed, NC Gov. Pat McCrory has signed an executive order extending workplace discrimination protections for LGBT state employees
“My job is to listen to the people who elected us to represent them. And the vast majority of North Carolinians we’ve heard from understand and support this reasonable, common-sense law,” he said.
HB2 passed during a special legislative session in late March in order to bar Charlotte’s city council from letting transgender people use public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity – not necessarily their birth sex. Republicans, and some Democrats, in the General Assembly voted in favor of addressing the bathroom issue and more in HB2.
The law also includes a pre-emptive provision that prohibits municipalities from adopting minimum-wage requirements higher than the state’s minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour.
For several weeks, North Carolina has been the target of national protests and boycotts due to HB2.
It has severely tarnished North Carolina’s image as one of the best places in the country to live, work and raise a family.
Letter from U.S. Reps. Adams, Butterfield and Price
Now, according to the letter from congressional Democrats, federal agencies are reviewing the law’s implications and whether the measure conflicts with federal standards and laws such as Title IX, which makes up part of North Carolina’s federal allocations for public education.
Federal Education Department officials are looking into North Carolina’s new law and have not yet determined whether it affects the state’s federal funding, Press Secretary Dorie Nolt told McClatchy by email on Wednesday. She added: “We will not hesitate to act if students’ civil rights are being violated.”
In a lawsuit related to where transgender students may use the restroom in public schools, federal justices found this week in Virginia that prohibiting students from using facilities that align with their gender identity is discriminatory and violates Title IX. The three U.S. House of Representatives Democrats from North Carolina mention that case in their letter, saying that if the appellate court ruling stands, HB2 could cost the state millions in school funding.
“Just as importantly,” wrote Price, Butterfield and Adams, the law “has severely tarnished North Carolina’s image as one of the best places in the country to live, work and raise a family.”
The U.S. Department of Education has never stripped funding from an entire state or even a specific school district over the issue of transgender students and restrooms – even when the agency has investigated and found alleged flaws in student equality.
Since HB2 passed, Gov. McCrory has signed an executive order extending workplace discrimination protections for LGBT state employees only, not the private workforce in North Carolina. The order also affirms that private businesses may create and enforce their own nondiscrimination policies and bathroom/locker room rules.
McCrory’s office says the order also “seeks legislation to reinstate the right to sue in state court for discrimination.”
Still, critics charge that the executive orders aren’t enough.
The letter from Adams, Butterfield and Price says McCrory’s action “fails to correct the broad injustices contained in the bill and serves as a clear admission that the law discriminates against members of the LGBT community while undermining state protections against employment discrimination.”