LAURINBURG — Both of Scotland County’s political parties will meet in the coming weeks to discuss HB2 — the “bathroom bill” recently passed by the North Carolina General Assembly.
Though they hold opposing views on the legislation, leaders in both the county Republican and Democrat parties agree that the bill’s impact extends beyond the boundaries of a shower stall.
The law requires that individuals use restrooms in government buildings that match their biological sex, irrespective of the gender with which they identify. The law also bans local governments from extending LGBT protections.
Criticis say HB2 also limits how people pursue claims of discrimination because of race, religion, color, national origin, biological sex or handicap in state courts. In addition, cities or counties cannot set a minimum wage standard for private employers under the law.
Republican legislators say they passed HB2 to block an amended ordinance by the city of Charlotte that would have extended LGBT legal benefits, including bathroom use.
The Scotland County Republican Party will hold a town hall, open to all regardless of party affiliation, at 7 p.m. on Monday at its headquarters.
Mark Schenck, chairman of county Republicans, said organizers plan to present new information on HB2 in the hope that people will sign a petition in support of the legislation.
“We’re inviting Democrats and Republicans, because it’s a concern for anybody that has a family and kids,” he said. “We feel it’s not a partisan deal; it affects all of us. It’s a matter of privacy. They’re trying to make segregation out of moral separation, that’s the problem.”
The legislation has drawn censure from the Democratic Party, entertainers and businesses who have publicly cancelled appearances and openings in North Carolina, and even from the federal government. Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the state, warning that HB2 could jeopardize more than $3 billion in federal education funding each year
“What the federal government is trying to do is pure extortion: if you don’t do what we tell you to do, we’ll withhold your money,” Schenck said. “That’s no way to conduct business.”
Local Republicans are confident that the bill will remain intact despite opposition.
“What we’re trying to do is get enough people to let them know that this is what the people want,” said Schenck. “I think we have a governor that’s going to stick up for the people. He may have to compensate in different areas to be effective, but I think all in all he’s going to get what he’s after.”
The GOP headquarters is at 684 S. 15/401 Bypass in Laurinburg.
The Scotland County Democratic Women had planned a meeting to discuss HB2 last week, but the scheduled speaker, Alan Freyer of the N.C. Justice Center advocacy group, was detained in Raleigh for legislative work on the issue. The meeting has been rescheduled for June 9.
“It’s about much more than a bathroom: it’s about local control over many issues and it also impedes bringing discrimination cases to state courts for many reasons,” said Jan Schmidt, chair of the Democratic women’s group.
The bill also restricts local governments from setting minimum wage rates that differ from the state’s.
“It was a bill that was given people with five minutes to read and vote on, and it’s burting business, it’s hurting jobs, it’s hurting tourism — to say nothing of the fact that it’s making us the laughingstock of the nation,” Schmidt said.
“It hurts people; it can definitely have a very hurtful effect on law-abiding and honest citizens who have a different lifestyle than most others. But that doesn’t make their lifestyle less worthy than any other. We need to respect our differences, not legislate against them.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.