You probably fell into one of two groups if you watched that Facebook video showing some protesters taunting former N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory in Washington, D.C., on inaugural weekend.
You likely were 1) uncomfortable watching McCrory and four others being chased – albeit slowly – down an alley by people chanting “shame”; or 2) gleeful at this comeuppance the governor received for signing and defending the discriminatory HB2. Or maybe you were a bit of both.
We were uncomfortable. Yes, McCrory cared little as governor about the comfort and dignity of the LGBT community, but cornering him and four others in front of a locked building entrance was both rude and petulant.
Still, no one physically engaged with McCrory or his companions. No one issued a verbal threat. The group was merely exercising its right to a vocal opinion until police smartly shooed them away.
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That resolution, however, wasn’t enough for one N.C. lawmaker. Republican Mecklenburg Sen. Dan Bishop, whom you might remember as the architect of HB2, said Monday that he plans to introduce legislation to protect public officials. In an email to constituents, Bishop said his legislation would “make it a crime to threaten, intimidate, or retaliate against a present or former North Carolina official in the course of, or on account of, the performance of his or her duties.”
Bishop, a lawyer by trade, surely knows that the law already protects public officials (and the rest of us) from threats, harassment and stalking. We would hope he also knows that when you include imprecise terms in sweeping legislation, you end up with bills that pose more questions than solutions. For example, what does it mean to “retaliate” against a public official? Would that include a mean letter to the editor?
Bishop says his planned bill would be modeled after a District of Columbia ordinance, one that’s similarly redundant and silly. The D.C. law, for example, punishes people for “up to three years” for kidnapping a public official or member of his family. That’s already a felony that comes with stiffer sentences.
Of course, Bishop is the same legislator/lawyer who wrongly claimed that Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance invited all men into women’s bathrooms. His frothing over the ordinance helped lead to HB2, a costly stain on the state. As we said last year, there’s no Mecklenburg legislator we can remember who has done more damage to Charlotte.
Now, Bishop wants to be the guardian of public officials past, present and future. We wish, of course, that he had the same concern for members of the LGBT community, who’ve faced very real discrimination and violence, not a few chants of “shame.” We wish he had as much regard for the dignity of transgender individuals, who were stigmatized by the law he crafted.
In the end, we hope Bishop’s fellow lawmakers realize that speech, even uncomfortable speech, should be protected. You may not change many minds when you point your finger and yell at former N.C. governors. But you sure don’t accomplish anything by threatening people’s right to do so.