It's easy to ridicule North Carolina's new anti-LGBT law, but it's actually very disturbing. The idea that Tar Heel politicians felt such an urgent need to start policing bathrooms that they held an emergency session inspires mockery, not fear.
But the law, passed with little review late last month, has a sinister side as well.
As a native of North Carolina, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and a lawyer with a license to practice in the Tar Heel state, I've watched this debate unfold with feelings ranging from dark humor to serious concern.
After reviewing the new House Bill 2 for a few days--longer than the lawmakers who voted for it and Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed it--here are five grave concerns I have about the law.
1. It Addresses an Imaginary Problem
Supporters of HB2 claim there is an imminent risk of men swarming women's bathrooms and locker rooms. They try to inspire fear of both transgender women and men by suggesting that they are likely to commit sexual assault, when there are few, if any, substantiated reports or stories out there to back up this claim. In fact, transgender men and women are more likely to be victims of assault due to fear and bigotry, something this law will only worsen.
2. It Costs North Carolina
Big business does not like discrimination. Major corporations are falling over themselves to condemn HB2 including Reddit, eBay, Starbucks, Facebook and Bank of America, just to name a few. Even American Airlines has spoken out against the law. Some will take actions, such as relocating or holding events elsewhere that will hit North Carolinians in the pocketbook. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already barred nonessential travel to North Carolina by state workers. Other states could follow, as could pro sports leagues and tech companies considering doing business in the Research Triangle.
3. It's Hypocritical
Conservative Republicans in North Carolina and elsewhere have railed against Common Core, a set of educational standards agreed on by multiple states, casting it as a Big Government grab that interferes with local control of schools. But in HB2, the state's Republican legislature and governor took away power from local school boards, cities and counties to pass their own anti-discrimination ordinances. Both parties are hypocritical from time to time, but this one is a doozy.
4. It Pushes Sex Reassignment Surgery Needlessly
HB2 restricts anti-discrimination laws to protect people based only on the gender listed on their birth certificates. This is a roundabout way of trying to define transgender people out of existence, but it would end up pushing them toward sex reassignment surgery, an expensive and difficult procedure. I doubt any transgender individual would do it based on this law, but the state is basically using the tortured logic of Mr. Garrison in "South Park," who becomes a woman so that he can court his lover without "being gay."
5. It Affects All Kinds of Anti-Discrimination Efforts
While much of the conversation around the law has centered on bathrooms, that is only one-third of the law. The other two thirds do things like restrict local governments from raising the minimum wage or passing anti-discrimination ordinances protecting groups other than those outlined in the law. For instance, the law bars a city like Charlotte or Raleigh from requiring contractors doing business with them from paying a living wage or offering a preference for doing business with veteran-owned firms.
HB2 has already done a lot of damage to North Carolina's reputation rebranding it as a backwards state made up of small-minded bigots. As a native Tar Heel, I hope the legislature and the governor come to their senses and repeal this ill-conceived law.
Tom Spiggle is author of "You're Pregnant? You're Fired: Protecting Mothers, Fathers, and Other Caregivers in the Workplace." He is founder of the Spiggle Law Firm based in Arlington, Va., and Nashville, TN., where he focuses on workplace law helping clients facing pregnancy discrimination or other family-care issues, such as caring for a sick child or elderly parent. To learn more, visit: www.yourepregnantyourefired.com.