N.C. HB2 law really a red herring


Nancy Barrineau - Contributing columnist



Thanks to the Scotland County Republican Party for inviting the public to its town hall discussion of HB2, dubbed North Carolina’s “bathroom bill.”

Mark Schenck’s recent editorial rightly notes that both Democrats and Republicans communicated “in a respectful manner and with tolerance.” We hope some of you will continue that dialogue at the next meeting of the Scotland Democratic Women—men are welcome, too—on June 9 at noon at the American Legion, where Allen Freyer of the North Carolina Justice Center will be the guest speaker.

I’d like to respond to other statements in Mr. Schenck’s editorial. Both there and at the meeting, he highlighted at length the anti-transgender positions of Dr. Paul R. McHugh, former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital. A bit of research will tell you McHugh’s views are on the fringes of medical opinion and have been debunked by every major medical, psychological, psychiatric, and public health organization in the country.

But citing McHugh’s position is, in fact, a red herring. HB2 doesn’t ask us to agree or disagree with the merits of sexual reassignment surgery but instead to decide how we will treat people we may neither understand nor agree with. It would surely add to the trauma transgender persons face every day, but it also reveals an alarming lack of common sense. Think about it. Would you have people who dress, act, and think like men use the ladies’ bathroom, and vice versa? Fortunately, the bill comes with no enforcement capability: we can all agree that law enforcement officers have much more important jobs to do than checking birth certificates at bathroom doors.

A more important red herring is built into the bill itself. The furor raised by the fear of transgender people obscures what else it does: it takes away our right to sue in state court over job discrimination. Mr. Schenck claims the bill “expands North Carolina’s equal employment opportunity policy to clarify that sexual orientation and gender identity are included,” but that’s simply not true. HB2 states that only the State, not a municipality like Charlotte, can provide employment protection, and that only biological sex—that, is the sex found on your birth certificate—is protected. But in truth any of us could be discriminated against in the workplace, for age or sex, race or disability, pregnancy or religion.

Mr. Schenck concludes few people’s minds were changed at the meeting, and if he’s talking about transgender rights, he’s probably right. But I suspect many of us left agreeing about one thing. HB2 is a bad bill that keeps us right where the state wants us: outside its courtrooms when we need employment protection.

Nancy Barrineau

Contributing columnist

Nancy Barrineau is a retired English professor with The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. She lives in Laurinburg.

Nancy Barrineau is a retired English professor with The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. She lives in Laurinburg.

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