In a shocking, unprecedented move, the North Carolina state legislature convened a special session late Wednesday in order to introduce and pass a sweeping anti-LGBT bill, HB-2, which overturns local ordinances protecting gay and transgender rights.
Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed the bill into law later that night.
"Rather than expand nondiscrimination laws to protect all North Carolinians, the General Assembly instead spent $42,000 to rush through an extreme bill that undoes all local nondiscrimination laws and specifically excludes gay and transgender people from legal protections," said Sarah Preston, acting Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina, in a statement.
Exposing the hateful logic of the bill, Zack Ford summarized the legislation in ThinkProgress this way:
All school and public bathrooms must discriminate against transgender people; discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity must be legal across the state and no local law can say otherwise; and even if the state’s Human Relations Commission finds that an individual was a victim of discrimination, the victim cannot then sue the employer or business that discriminated. Completely irrelevant to LGBT people, any city that wants to do better by their workforce would be limited to the policies set by the state.
The Washington Post reported, "State lawmakers pushed the measure in response to a nondiscrimination ordinance adopted in the city of Charlotte that, among other things, allowed people to use the bathroom that matched with their gender identity."
Observers describe the bill as more far-reaching and extreme than Indiana's so-called "Religious Freedom and Restoration Act," passed last year, which allows the violation of anti-discrimination laws "under the guise of religious freedom," as Common Dreams reported.
As the Charlotte Observer wrote, since HB-2 has been passed the "only protected classes recognized by the state will be race, color, national origin and biological sex."
Preston noted, "The manner in which legislators passed the most extreme anti-LGBT bill in the nation—voting hours after it was unveiled without adequate public debate—flies in the face of fairness and democracy."
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One Democratic senator described the discriminatory legislation and the rushed "bait-and-switch" legislative process in a Facebook post before the bill reached the senate floor:
They are pushing this through as fast as possible. No one was allowed to see the bill until the committee met, then legislators were given 5 minutes to read it. It passed out of the committee and is now being debated on the House floor. It will almost certainly pass the House. Then it will be taken up in Senate committee, then to the Senate floor. All in one day.
If it becomes law, it means any business in the state can refuse service to any LGBT person - even by just posting a sign that says, "No Gays Allowed." It is much broader than last year's much-debated Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which at least required a "sincerely held religious belief" to refuse service. This includes no such requirement. Discriminate at will.
The press is just now waking up to the bait and switch that just occurred, which is why you haven't heard much about this yet - but you will. This is going to be the broadest anti-LGBT legislation in the nation, and it will hurt our state deeply if it becomes law.
"We witnessed an affront to democracy," said Democratic Sen. Dan Blue of Raleigh, the minority leader, to the Charlotte Observer. "We will not be silent."
Outraged North Carolinians are expressing their condemnation for the bill on social media under the hashtag #wearenotthis.
New law means It is now legal for businesses to out up signs that say "No gays allowed". Or veterans. Or pregnant women. #WeAreNotThis— Rep. Graig Meyer (@GraigMeyer) March 24, 2016