By enacting House Bill 2, the legislature did the wrong thing. I made the wrong vote and we must now make it right.
My parents raised me to avoid any rush to judgment and to consider the consequences of my decisions. They stressed to me that I will make mistakes but, when made, never, never compound a mistake by sitting silent and failing to own up to the error.
Upon prayer and reflection, I have come to realize that I need to take action now. I will not be silent and allow North Carolina’s values to be undermined by the travesty that is HB2.
As a lawyer, I have stood with the defenseless because our Constitution says – actually demands – that all Americans have basic rights and, by protecting those rights, we can all truly share in the blessings of being an American.
Since our hasty vote on HB2, I have been haunted by the fact that in one rushed action, I undermined a lifetime of fighting against those who would demonize a group of citizens to gain political advantage and to advance an unjust agenda.
Instead of recognizing the right to be free of discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation, HB2 gives green light to this discrimination in housing, employment and other areas. To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, we must never make any group of citizens a stranger to the laws of their own state.
Because of HB2, we now live in a state that has closed our state courts to citizens who suffer discrimination for practicing their Christian faith or other religious beliefs, or because of their race, color, national origin, age, sex or disability. HB2 prevents local governments from enacting laws that respond to the concerns of their constituents.
HB2 also costs our state and our citizens jobs – high-paying, life-enriching jobs – that may now to go South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia or other states that have not taken this divisive path.
I call on my fellow legislators, the speaker, the president pro tem and the governor to repeal this hurtful, overreaching and unnecessary law. When the legislature reconvenes, I will support legislation toward that end.
In America and in the Old North State, we celebrate diversity, we don’t condemn it. In North Carolina we defend people’s equal protection under our laws, we don’t diminish them. In North Carolina, we do the right thing, even when it is hard.
Let’s do what we North Carolinians do when we are at our best and choose restraint over raw emotion. Let’s choose local government and let it be truly accountable to its citizens. Let’s choose rational, deliberative action and enact a law that accomplishes only what we intended to do. Let’s not end North Carolina’s history of moderation. Let’s admit we were wrong and actually fix our real problems.
You can’t fix a wrong until you acknowledge a mistake. I was wrong and I will stand with all North Carolinians who dream of fulfilling the words of the official toast for our Old North State, “where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.”
Billy Richardson is a Democrat who represents Cumberland County in the N.C. House.