City Council calls for repeal of HB2, urges other cities to do same

Protestors express opposition to House Bill 2 in Asheville. Photo by John Penley

Asheville residents packed City Council chambers to voice opposition to House Bill 2 and to urge the city to adopt an uncompromising resolution condemning the law and calling for its repeal. Council members listened closely, sometimes with tears in their eyes, as they heard from transgender people who believe the new law puts them at greater risk of arrest or acts of violence. After over an hour of public comment, City Council unanimously voted to approve a strongly-worded measure modeled on one passed by the town of Carrboro.

Mayor Esther Manheimer introduced the discussion and referenced an Executive Order signed by Governor Pat McCrory shortly before Council’s meeting began. “As of tonight,” said Manheimer, “many cities and towns have also passed resolutions, mostly because they have had their meetings before we had a chance to have our meeting. I anticipate a few more will pass similar resolutions before the Legislature goes back into session on April 25.”

The Governor’s Executive Order, Manheimer continued, did not repeal the bill but restored the ability for people to bring discrimination lawsuits in state courts and added a class to the state personnel act for gender identity and sexual orientation. “But that doesn’t take away any of what House Bill 2 put into effect,” she said.

Councilman Cecil Bothwell, who proposed adapting the Carrboro resolution to replace a much less aggressive proposed Asheville resolution, said HB 2 had brought national attention to the state, and not in a good way. Also, Bothwell noted, “Many parts of this are unconstitutional and it’s entirely wrong, so I’m proud to be doing this tonight.”

Councilman Brian Haynes urged those who have supported the law to consider it “through the lens of love and tolerance” and to reject fear and misinformation about LGBT people.

Of the 16 who spoke, only one expressed support for the law.

Devan Balsam, a transgender man and a single father of three sons, spoke of telling his children that there is now a small chance that he will be arrested for using the “wrong” restroom. “I’m not a monster, I’m a hard-working, law-abiding, God-fearing father of three,” Balsam said. “Please find it in your heart to consider me as a person for sake of my children.”

Tara Darby, a transgender woman, said she has seen an “explosion” of threatening statements directed toward her and other transgender people on social media in the wake of the passage of the law on March 23. To those who say the bathroom aspects of the law are a small part of its effects, Darby responded, “The bathroom part isn’t a tiny little part if we could get hurt or even killed going to the bathroom.”

Attorney Meghan Burke said, “This law will not stand test of time and litigation, which is pending,” and she urged Council to take steps beyond passing a resolution, including adding non-discrimination clauses to city contracts.

Lindsay Furst, who is a teacher in the Buncombe County schools, said enforcing the state law in public schools would require her to violate her first priority, which is protecting her students. “LGBTQ teens are dying from homelessness, overdose, suicide and violence,” she said.

This controversy, said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, is part of the long historical arc of the LGBT community. She joined her wife Meghan Burke in calling on the city to take additional steps to extend equal protection to all.

Manheimer closed the public comment session by noting that the only silver lining of the situation with HB 2 is that it provides an opportunity to “reaffirm that we stand together.”

Councilman Keith Young read an email he said he had sent to his Council colleagues soon after hearing the law had passed. “To take this lightly,” read Young, “is to be complacent of a civil rights history that is less than 60 years old. Don’t be afraid to act. We must take heartfelt action in defense of equality.” As the only minority member of Council, he said, he felt especially obligated to condemn a law that “erodes the power of local government and tramples decades of public policy.”

Council unanimously passed its consent agenda, including the resolution calling for the repeal of HB 2.


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38 thoughts on “City Council calls for repeal of HB2, urges other cities to do same

  1. bsummers

    Once again, I predict that all commentors will approach this subject with the utmost civility and propriety.

  2. Peter Robbins

    The Mayor is incorrect about one thing. The Governor’s executive order does not restore a cause of action in state court for workplace discrimination. It merely says that he will ask the legislature to restore the cause of action.

    But the Executive Order does appear to give away the game in one important respect. It mandates that, for purposes of the state’s own personnel policies, sexual orientation and gender identity must enjoy the same nondiscrimination protections as racial minorities, religious groups and women.

    Having conceded that this state of parity should be the norm, the Governor now must explain why HB 2 – which he boasted established the state’s first nondiscrimination protections in the private sector for racial minorities, etc. – does not do exactly the same with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity. What sense does it make for the state to admit that one form of discrimination is just as bad as racism in one (public) setting but then refuse to declare it wrong and ban it from a comparable (commercial) setting where the state has just acknowledged that comparable nondiscrimination protections are needed? And not only refuse to ban it but block any local government from banning it.

    What gives, Republicans? How can a form of discrimination that your leader and official state policy now condemn as irredeemably evil remain tolerable in private employment and public accommodations? You don’t defend bigotry, do you? Oh, wait, I forgot. This is supposed to be about bathrooms, isn’t it?

    • mynamewas

      That video is more perverted than anything that HB2 was pretending to stop.

    • Peter Robbins

      Please quote the language from the Charlotte ordinance that gave men the right to enter women’s showers whenever they felt like it. Your video does not do that. It’s possible you’re being duped.

      • Peter Robbins

        This video does not show that the Charlotte ordinance mandated same-sex bathrooms. Nor does it show that the ordinance mandated the result that men could enter the women’s washroom or shower on the pretext that they felt like a woman that day. But feel free, Mr. Peck, to actually articulate the argument. I would enjoy hearing it.

        • Yes. Of course, you need someone to hold your hand in interpreting the otherwise plain reading. Your stubbornness is only exceeded by your obstinance. I wish you well on your journey into ignorance. Though I won’t follow you there.

          • Peter Robbins

            Don’t like logical argument? Okay. Try factual research. Investigate all the jurisdictions that have similar laws. Find out how they’ve been construed. See how the “I felt like a woman today” defense held up. But you shouldn’t just believe everything you see on youtube. You have to learn to think for yourself.

          • Peter Robbins

            Not as funny as your youtube video. Did you find that in a law library?

          • Peter Robbins

            Oh, good. Well, go back to the law library and find a book on canons of statutory construction. Once you do that, I’ll tell you what to do next.

          • Tom Williams

            Timmy-The minister of propaganda for the Taliban in Raleigh once again demonstrates his arrogance for anyone who does agree with the far right agenda. He moves here to force the extreme agenda of the religious right on the locals. His full time job of posting “his opinions” changes no one’s mind but does reflect how desperate the Republican Party has become. This is the best that you can buy?

          • “This is the best that you can buy?”

            This all has the whiff of projection. Perhaps it’s YOU that has no opinion that’s not paid for in advance. Tell me, what gets your blood circulating on a Sunday?

          • Perhaps you can give a Master Class on the difference between a ruling on the substance and a procedural remanding to a case to a lower court.

            “The appellate court remanded the case to the District Court, which was ordered to re-evaluate Mr. Grimm’s request for a preliminary injunction.”

            I’m open to your ‘slainin’.

          • Peter Robbins

            The significance of the decision, oh star pupil, rests in the Fourth Circuit’s ruling on the question of law, which was raised on motion to dismiss. That issue, unless reversed on banc, is now decided and will not be revisited by the trial court on remand. And it is that legal decision that will control for purposes of application of the decision to the pending Title IX challenge to HB2. Note in particular, though, how the Fourth Circuit dismissed your “concern” over men temporarily adopting a female gender “identity” solely as a pretext to gain access to the ladies room. The court flushed it. Down where it belongs. As I now flush you.

          • Based on your vacuous contributions, I think people were really hoping for a somewhat more convincing explanation.

  3. Meiling Dai

    HB2 does more than mandate who can enter a men’s or women’s bathroom. That is the icing on the cake.
    It goes further than that according to news reports. It strips local towns and municipalities of their constitutional
    right to pass laws that prevent discrimination against women, minorities, gender, etc.
    The last time I glanced at the U.S. Constitution upon which the N.C. State Constitution is based, local governments
    have the right to pass laws that pertain to their area, state governments have the right to pass laws that pertain statewide,
    and the federal government has the right to pass laws that pertain nationwide. That being the case,
    HB2 is “UNCONSTITUTIONAL” because it prevents local governments from passing laws regarding discrimination.

    • Henry

      You’re incorrect.

      While I’m not a fan of HB2 by any means, the federal constitution does not provide protection to municipalities chartered or organized by the state.

      There is also no constitutional right to pass a law; only the right to a republican form of government.

    • bsummers

      You applauded when Tim Moffitt & crew used the power of the State to beat up on Asheville. But now you’re shocked, shocked to find that the crew (sans Moffitt) is still abusing that power, although in a way that you now disapprove of.

      The joke about the Old Woman and the Snake comes to mind. “Look b***h, you knew I was a snake when you brought me in here!”

      • Henry

        I didn’t realize I got to you that much, Barry. That’s the only way to explain your reaction to my statement.

        Nowhere did I express any shock at all, and I bet we also disagree about what you think abuses of power are.

        Let’s celebrate that we agree that HB2 is unnecessary.

      • Henry

        Also great to see you weighing in on City of Asheville issues again, Barry.

    • ” local governments have the right to pass laws that pertain to their area”

      No. In NC, local governments do NOT have the right to pass laws that pertain to their area. They are granted permission by the state legislature to exercise limited authority. When cities or counties overstep their grant of authority, the legislature must clarify that cities exist at the pleasure of the state. Hence, HB2.

  4. Henry

    This is a great step forward for progress.

    Any neutral observer could easily tell you that the legislature in Raleigh is heavily attuned and supportive of the Asheville City Council. Now that Asheville City Council, the forward looking beacon of intelligence that it is, has passed yet another non-binding resolution regarding an issue it has no control over, I’m convinced that all of the legislators in Raleigh will quickly heed Asheville’s lead, and do exactly as the city council has asked.

    I’m glad that City Council was able to address this issue, and able to put off less pressing items such as how to pave streets, why the homeless population is increasing here, or addressing sidewalk shortages.

    Every time I read about City Council I am convinced that we have some of the smartest people in the world here in our little city.

    • Yep

      Yes, Henry…your summation is totally AVL’s problem for the past several decades…they are dang lucky that downtown revived into
      a goldmine for them…yes, City Council plays into ignorance and complacency like no other … absolutely pathetic non leadership with NO attention to real needs. I hear people deciding this place is not worth the hype frequently …know of one that is desperate to get outta here soon as she sells her house to move to Hendersonville – much nicer and CLEANER!

      Oh, and WHY IS the homeless population increasing here? Because it’s well known to the transient community as a safe place to hide from the world and all will be provided, except a bus ticket outta here.

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