Calling foul on North Carolina’s latest transgender bathroom bill

Sun-Times Editorial Board

North Carolina is not a welcoming state. On the contrary, a new law there continues to allow discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

Thursday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a law to “repeal” the so-called bathroom bill enacted last year to force transgender people to use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates. The original bill also prevented local governments from passing laws to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But calling this a “repeal” is nothing but a dodge meant to bamboozle the governing body for college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The association pulled first- and second-round games of its men’s basketball tournament — the association’s prized event —  and other events from the state this school year because of the bathroom bill. The move by the NCAA struck a blow to a state where watching college basketball is a beloved pastime. Next year’s tournament games in Charlotte, North Carolina, also could be moved. And by mid-April, the association could decide to keep basketball games out of North Carolina until 2023.

The NCAA should not be fooled. The new law is only a slight improvement. It got rid of the birth certificate requirement but prohibits local governments from enacting anti-discrimination laws of their own until December 2020. Basically, the new law sends a signal that it’s just fine to marginalize LGBTQ folks at least for a few more years.

Let’s not reward such flim-flamming. We would hope the NCAA continues to freeze out North Carolina. And, for that matter, so should every convention, business and rock star — Good for you, Bruce Springsteen — that has decided to do business elsewhere.

 

Texas also could lose tournament games in the future over a bathroom bill championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. The bill has passed the state Senate but faces a tougher fight in the House. Next year, the NCAA’s coveted Final Four will be played in San Antonio. Texas lawmakers willing to cave to bigotry and fear could mess that up.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (center) with other legislators and supporters of Senate Bill 6, a bathroom bill similar to North Carolina’s HB 2, at the Texas Capitol in Austin earlier this month. | Eric Gay/AP file

In North Carolina, the NCAA cited four critical factors for its ban, three of which are unresolved by the new law: The state invalidated anti-discrimination laws set by municipalities; made it unlawful for people to use bathrooms that didn’t match their birth certificates, regardless of their gender identity; gave legal protections to government officials who refuse to serve the LGBTQ community; and spurred a boycott by five states and several cities — including Chicago — that refuse to let public employees travel there on business.

In Chicago, by the way, there is no ID requirement to use a bathroom or locker room. The City Council officially did away with it last year. The Illinois Legislature could soon make it easier for transgender people to get new birth certificates. Democratic State Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago is pushing a bill to eliminate antiquated standards for those who transition or have an intersex condition and need a new birth certificate. Sadly, this is a partisan effort. No Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors.

North Carolina has its progressive pockets. The bathroom bill was enacted after Charlotte passed an ordinance to expand protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and allow people to use bathrooms according to the sex with which they identify. Those changes came amid a national push for gay marriage and other civil rights.

The state’s governor at the time, Pat McCrory, responded by saying Charlotte’s law could create safety issues if some individuals took “deviant actions” and he launched a “legislative intervention” backed by conservatives.

That’s how North Carolina doubled down on discrimination, which cost McCrory his governorship in the 2016 election and created a quandary for businesses that want to be seen as inclusive.

University of North Carolina coach Roy Williams (left) and players Kennedy Meeks, Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson wrap up an NCAA first-round win against Texas Southern on March 17 in Greenville, South Carolina. The NCAA moved games from Greensboro, North Carolina, because of the controversial bathroom bill. | Rainier Ehrhardt/AP file

An analysis by the Associated Press found the state could lose more than $3.76 billion over the next 12 years because of lost business. PayPal Holdings Inc. changed its mind about building a new facility. The NBA moved this year’s All-Star game from Charlotte.

But the loss of the NCAA games struck a sentimental cord for many in the state. Its flagship university, the University of North Carolina, is in Phoenix this weekend to play in its record 20th Final Four. Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, also has a storied program.

Almost every year in March — sometimes in Greensboro, North Carolina, or Raleigh, North Carolina, or Charlotte  — the University of North Carolina and Duke enjoy playing in their home state. Fans enjoy the adrenalin rush associated with March Madness. Restaurants and hotels sell out.

Not this year. Maybe not for a long time.

 

Calling foul on North Carolina’s latest transgender bathroom bill