By: Jo Rochelle
American citizens have been engaged in furious debate since the passing of House Bill 2 in March 2016. The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, also known as the “bathroom bill,” mandates that in the case of public, multiple-occupancy facilities such as restrooms and changing rooms, one must use the facility designated for the biological sex listed on their birth certificate. The bill also outlines state legislation as holding more power than local ordinances when it comes to discriminatory acts based on race, religion, color, national origin, age, handicap or biological sex, and that North Carolina can’t be sued for such acts.
The bill has upset members of the LGBTQ+ community, civil liberties organizations, and other left-leaning people across the United States. North Carolina has already lost revenue due to HB2’s passing. Artists such as Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Nick Jonas, and Demi Lovato canceled shows in North Carolina in response to the bill. Businesses like PayPal refuse to expand into the state. The National Basketball Association moved the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte. The National Collegiate Athletic Association pulled seven championship events during the 2016-17 season, including the first and second rounds of the 2017 Men’s Basketball Championship. And it doesn’t look like it will stop there. In a letter to North Carolina legislators, the North Carolina Sports Association warned that the NCAA might move all championship events through 2022 out of North Carolina if the state doesn’t repeal HB2.
According to the letter from the North Carolina Sports Association, the state could lose “upwards of a half-billion dollars,” at least $250 million of which would be from the 133 bids for NCAA championship events between now and 2022 that North Carolina has made. “When the NCAA decides it will no longer conduct events in North Carolina, the Atlantic Coast Conference and many other sports organizations will surely follow,” the association reported. For many NC business owners and companies, however, the loss in revenue is less of an issue compared to the moral implications of something that goes against their beliefs.
Still, the large amount of money being lost is nothing to laugh at. In response to this predicament, Governor Roy Cooper said, “There is no time to waste in repealing House Bill 2. The bipartisan votes of both Democrats and Republicans are there for repeal if the Republican legislative leadership will just put it to a vote.” It is currently unclear how much support he will have. Bills have, however, been introduced to the NC House of Representatives to repeal the bathroom bill. HB78 would, in addition to repealing HB2, increase the penalties for people convicted of committing acts of sexual assault in public restrooms and other facilities. HB82 would provide protections for LGBTQ+ people in housing, employment, and other areas. This includes bathroom access for transgender people.
There have, however, been attempts to strengthen rather than appeal HB2. Recently, the Trump administration has withdrawn federal protections from Obama’s presidency that allowed transgender people to use facilities that aligned with their gender identity in public schools. The departments of Justice and Education under Obama had issued a “Dear Colleague” letter on the matter, interpreting Title IX, a federal law that bans discrimination based on sex in schools, to include gender identity. The Trump administration’s first “Dear Colleague” letter has withdrawn these protections without providing replacement, claiming that the transgender bathroom policy should be decided at the state level.
The controversy around HB2 and questions about Trump’s annulment of Obama-era protections continue to circulate. But what can the average person do to impact the future of HB2 and laws like it? For starters, get involved. Contact representatives and talk to them about your stance on issues and what you’d like them to do. Volunteer with or donate to groups that are working to secure the outcome you want. Whether someone supports HB2 or not, there is always something that can be done to an aim if one just makes their voice heard.