Coalition of LGBT rights-advocate groups protest new state law

CALL TO ACTION: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara addresses the crowd at a protest of the new state law that bans local attempts to ease discrimination against LGBT individuals. Ivy Hill holds the megaphone. Photo by Able Allen
SPEAKING UP: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara translated her history of organizing and activism into a seat on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners in 2016 when she prevailed in the election over Gordon Smith and Isaac Coleman. Photo by Able Allen Photo by Able Allen

As a rain cloud darkened the sky above Asheville and the wind assaulted unfurled rainbow flags, a storm of anger from the LGBT and allied communities erupted as a crowd of about 300 protesters convened at the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville late Thursday Afternoon. The outpouring of frustration and dissatisfaction stemmed directly from the passage of House Bill 2, also called the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act.

The state law overturns a recent nondiscrimination ordinance put in place by the city of Charlotte that included an explicit allowance for transgender men and women to use bathrooms and changing-room facilities they identify with. The law goes even further: It forbids other local governments from passing ordinances of a similar nature. It also seemingly guts a state law providing protection for employees who are fired because of their race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or disability, according to the N.C. News Service.

Among the rushing wind, the honks of supportive passing drivers and the buzz of excited protesters, the featured speakers were sometimes hard to hear, but the general message was clear enough: All stated their desire to see the freshly passed law struck down.

Bringing all present to attention, singer Kat Williams belted out, “I’m gonna keep on walking…gonna build a better world.” Southern Equality Executive Director, the Rev. Jasmine Beach Ferrara then took the megaphone with a rallying cry, “I’m angry, I’m mad as hell, and I’m heartbroken!” Beach Ferrara said she felt betrayed by lawmakers. “We are here because the Republican legislature made a law to do one thing: to target people.” She assured the crowd that, “We will do everything in our power to fight for you.” She said no law can supersede the basic human and constitutional rights everyone is entitled to, and vowed to help people fight the law through the courts.

Ivy Hill, a transgender rights activist with the South Carolina based group TransAction, spoke next, asking the transgender people present to “live your truth out loud.”  Hill’s message was that it is important to honor the fact that transgender people, whether we know it or not, are our family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. “We know that we are already equal,” Hill said. TransAction is offering all-gender bathroom signs free of charge to public businesses.

Transgender activist Brynn Estelle with Tranzmission, a social support group, said, “[The state legislature] called the emergency session to send a message, and that message was: ‘If you are transgender … or nongender binary, you are not welcome.'” The WNC native yelled,I can only speak for myself. I have no intensions of leaving!”

The leader of the Asheville chapter of the N.A.A.C.P, Carmen Ramos-Kennedy, called HB2 “the worst anti-gay discrimination bill in the country,” and said it is important for people to stand together against oppression. “Anything that undermines the constitutional rights of one person,” she said, “undermines and hurts us all.”

Sen. Terry Van Duyn, just back from the special session in Raleigh, told the crowd, “What we did yesterday in the North Carolina legislature was wrong and it will not stand.”

Beach-Ferrara closed the event, calling for all present to take the energy of the the day back to their communities, to ask their elected leaders, “Who you are and what you believe in?” and to keep supporting one another because, “We are stronger together and there is no turning back.”

Despite the general mood of anger over the new law, there was also love and humor in evidence. Many in the group hugged one another and expressed support. There were also plenty of freshly minted protest signs taking advantage of the unavoidable humor of having this struggle revolve around bathrooms, such as: “Let me pee in peace,” “I shouldn’t have to be afraid to pee,” and “We poo just like u.” There was also a port-a-potty onsite that some planned to deliver to Raleigh; and there were rumors circulating of “shit-in” protests.

Acting quickly

Last month, the city of Charlotte passed a controversial law forbidding discrimination based on sexual preference and gender identity. Opponents of the measure spoke out with concern about the safety of women and girls sharing a public bathroom with people born male. Supporters maintained that statistically the transgender people are at much higher risk of violence in a bathroom.

March 22nd, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest (R), in his capacity as president of the state senate, joined House Speaker Tim Moore in calling the NC legislature to a special session beginning at 10 a.m. the following morning. The unusual procedure was called to stop the Charlotte law from going into effect as scheduled on April 1.

Wednesday, the body convened and overwhelmingly voted to have state law on discrimination supersede any local ordinances.

The law passed the house with a vote of 82 to 26 (11 absent including Rep. Susan Fisher of Buncombe County and Rep. Chuck McGrady of Henderson County), mostly along party lines with one Republican breaking ranks to vote against the bill and 11 Democrats voting for the measure. The Senate was a more sensational story with all 32 present voting for the bill and all 11 Democrats who showed up for the special session walking out before the final vote in protest, thereby abstaining from even casting a vote on the measure. Sen. Terry Van Duyn of Buncombe County said the walk out was because “This law is not what North Carolina is about and tells the rest of the nation that we are open for discrimination.”

All in the same day, the bill was placed on the calendar of both houses of government, amended, passed, and signed into law by the governor.

Criticism and defense

Beyond the civil rights concerns as expressed by the speakers at the protest, the those opposed to the law have a myriad of additional concerns from the process, to the potentially broad sweeping ramifications on other local powers. State attorney general and Democratic candidate for governor Roy Cooper has characterized the law as anti-business interest based on statements from: Bank of America, American Airlines, Wells Fargo, Dow Chemical, IBM, PayPal, Lowe’s and others. All the statements emphasized the importance of diversity in their business values, and criticize any law that would dampen rights of people they consider valuable members of their companies. His campaign also released a statement of concern over potential loss of major sporting events such as the NCAA tournament, the NBA All Star game, and the X Games because of the law. Gov. Pat McCrory maintains that “much of the feedback we’ve gotten [from businesses]

The sweeping state law also specifically bans anyone from entering a bathroom or changing room assigned to a sex other than what is indicated on the person’s birth certificate. An unintended consequence of this may be that some will have to break the law to do their jobs or to assist individuals with physical or developmental disabilities such that they need help while going to the bathroom.

Opponents of the law also point to its costs, real and predicted. The special, one-day session is reported to have cost taxpayers $42,000 dollars. Opponents argue the law will be expensive to defend in court against suits challenging its constitutionality. North Carolina previously spent over $100,000 defending the N.C. constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, only to have the law nullified by the U.S Supreme Court.

Asheville attorney Phillip Roth says, “The bill effectively legalizes discrimination in North Carolina by gutting the ‘private cause of action’ that formerly existed.” According to his interpretation, the state law leaves a person with a discrimination case only one recourse: File in Federal Court, which he terms an “unappealing” prospect. “That this undoing of a critical safeguard against discrimination could occur in the span of a single day leaves me speechless,” he concludes.

Meanwhile Gov. Patrick McCrory defends the law as protecting privacy and comfort, calling the bill a common-sense, bi-partisan effort. After signing the bill Wednesday, he released a statement saying “The basic expectation of privacy in the most personal of settings, a restroom or locker room, for each gender was violated by government overreach and intrusion by the mayor and city council of Charlotte. This radical breach of trust and security under the false argument of equal access not only impacts the citizens of Charlotte but people who come to Charlotte to work, visit or play. This new government regulation defies common sense and basic community norms by allowing, for example, a man to use a woman’s bathroom, shower or locker room.”

In the same statement, McCrory acknowledged that the law goes further than just striking down the Charlotte ordinance. He explained that in his view it would not impose on prior granted rights. “While local municipalities have important priorities working to oversee police, fire, water and sewer, zoning, roads, and transit, the mayor and city council took action far out of its core responsibilities. As a result, I have signed legislation passed by a bipartisan majority to stop this breach of basic privacy and etiquette which was to go into effect April 1. Although other items included in this bill should have waited until regular session, this bill does not change existing rights under state or federal law.”

Conservative, faith-based organization Alliance Defending Freedom agrees with the governor and says that the action of Charlotte’s council and mayor represents a fringe and radical view that leaves women, children and businesses unsafe. The group’s legal counsel, Kellie Fiedorek, stated, “Sixty-nine percent of North Carolinians agreed that the ordinance was unreasonable and unsafe in forcing women and young girls to undress, shower or engage in other private activities in the presence of men. The privacy rights and safety of North Carolina citizens shouldn’t be cast aside or used as a political pawn for special interest groups that desire to impose their agenda to create a genderless society. The governor’s decision to sign the General Assembly’s bill repealing the ordinance was just common sense.”

A press release issued yesterday by the office of House Speaker Pro Tempore, Rep. Paul Stam (R)  said the special session was to “confront a crisis precipitated by the Charlotte City Council.” And Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger on the Senate floor went so far as to blame Attorney General Roy Cooper for forcing the legislature to take emergency action, saying “What should have happened was the chief law enforcement officer of this state should have filed a court case to enjoin the adoption or the implementation of this ordinance. Somebody wasn’t doing their job.”


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About Able Allen
Able studied political science and history at Warren Wilson College. He enjoys travel, dance, games, theater, blacksmithing and the great outdoors. Follow me @AbleLAllen

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31 thoughts on “Coalition of LGBT rights-advocate groups protest new state law

  1. boatrocker

    Congrats, any marriage is now the law of the land, but GOP religious liberty policies are the new Jim Crow laws.
    I say this as a ‘breeder’ who can recognize patterns for history.
    Keep patting yourselves on the back for a tiny victory and see where it gets you. Social media victory at very best.

    Where was your LGBT Black Panther Movement (arming yourself, voting, speaking with your lazy millennial dollars to give up yuppie coffee and eating out) in order to drive jerks who hate outta business? As always (Occupy Wall St), 1st world conveniences supersede ideology. Have fun distracting yourselves with Season 19 of Orange is the New Black.

    Look forward to FBI watch lists (for not voting Patriot Act supporters out of office), fire hoses, poll tests, police dogs and occasional lynchings.

    As much as I hate the far right wackos and admire the left- the left still can’t get it together- it’s like the so called activists today know all they know from the Baby Boomers yet still try to emulate them.

    Addiction to 1st world Asheville conveniences might be weighing you down, just saying.

    While you’re at it, please give us some new culture like blues, jazz, the Harlem renaissance, rap, and comedy did , though I might be asking too much.

    • Lulz

      LOL, all one needs to do is read the comments from various local sources. the most vocal boomers are also the one’s who own 8 rental homes or have generous pensions that afford them great retirements. And they don’t seem to equate that what they believe in actually prevents others from having the same opportunity as they had and still have. Yet they are in lock step with the lefty loonies and of course blame others for the situation.


    • boatrocker

      If I sound cynical about the small (historically) ‘anybody can get married now’ decision via the Supreme Court, well it’s because I sort of am.
      The US and a religious theocracy have a hot date together if one GOP type wins, where with the other, the US only has a date with a megalomaniac potential Mussolini. Yay us.

      In this year 2016 AD, I still find it difficult to process that any sort of discrimination happens, but human nature doesn’t change much I suppose.
      Still, boycotts work. Call them mancotts or womyncotts or whatever, but historically they work. Numerous big corporations have expressed that will not come to GA or NC with new laws in effect now. Call it opportunistic (corporations suddenly caring about actual humans), but use that to an advantage. Affecting the wallet and bottom line is the biggest fear of any big company, so use that.

      However, with boycotts come sacrifices. Is the LGBT community prepared to give up elements of a cushy spoon fed 1st world self centered existence in order to demand 100% under the law? Internet access (gasp!), clothing, services, eating out, $6 microbrewed beers (gasp!). pet services, even where you buy gas are but a few examples.

      People did it in India under Gandhi, they did it here for buses, restaurants, entertainment, hell Ray Charles refused to play segregated shows in Georgia- like I said, it may demand sacrifice.

      Lastly, why not take the Tea Party’s own ideologies and turn them on their heads? I could think of no better way to infuriate closed minded bigots than by seeing a woman in ‘sensible brown shoes’ doing the CCW thing so as to avoid any late night beat downs while out and about.

  2. “300 protesters convened”

    All of whom, I’m sure, are familiar the Charlotte ordinance and House Bill 2 and thoroughly understand the issues. And I’m sure they also understand that they are being used as pawns in the larger objective of achieving electoral gains. Smoke? Meet mirror.

    • “They are counting on no one reading the legislation, much less understanding it. The NC campaign to paint HB 2 as discriminating against veterans, disabled persons, LGBT individuals and even pregnant women, has begun. None of these claims are even remotely true. But that doesn’t matter. This is the narrative. What matters is that the NC Democrats and all their Blueprint NC left leaning buddies are shouting it on every platform available to them. They are counting on no one reading the legislation, much less understanding it. They are counting on the fact no one understands how municipality rule making authority works. To be blunt, they are counting on people being either dumb or too lazy to do research. It’s a good bet, sadly.”

      • Peter Robbins

        Start by explaining how this legislation comports with Romer v. Evans.

        • Legislative Update: Special Session
          by Representative Chris Millis, Dan Bishop, Pat McCrory

          Dear fellow citizens,

          Last week the General Assembly met in a Special Session to handle a matter of urgent importance facing our state. Much of the debate that led up to, during, and after the session has consisted of false accusations and deception. Therefore, I feel it is necessary that I write you at length to inform you of the truth. I strongly encourage you to read this entire post, regardless of your initial approval/disapproval of the legislative action…

        • mynameis

          24 hours, and still no response to your query from the far-right fringe. :-P

          • Peter Robbins

            Actually, I think he did respond. The Republican position apparently is that Charlotte never had any legal authority to pass non-discrimination ordinances in the first place, and so I gather their legal position would be, in part, that Romer v. Evans is distinguishable on grounds that the state here did not take away any actual rights or protections from gay people, for invidious reasons or otherwise. I have a few e-mails out to journalistic, legal and municipal authorities to see if the underlying factual premise is correct. I myself don’t know the answer offhand, but It seems odd that Charlotte would have an illegitimate non-discrimination ordinance (relating to race) on the books since 1968 without anyone noticing the defect until now.

            All this, of course, address only the constitutionality of the state’s actions. It says nothing about the morally repugnant decision to deny all victims of private-sector discrimination — including racial and religious discrimination — a cause of action in state court, let alone to refuse to extend anti-discrimination protection to gays, lesbian and transgendered people. And what the gender of restroom users has to do with minimum wages and public-contract terms is beyond anyone’s comprehension. Sad day for North Carolina when so much gets decided without even any debate.

          • mynameis

            Curious to find out what you get back from your queries to the various authorities. Let us know!

          • Peter Robbins

            Update (in case anyone is still reading this thread): Charlotte relied on its police power, N.C. Gen. Stat. 160A-174, and its power to regulate and license businesses, N.C. Gen. Stat. 160A-194, to pass its original non-discrimination ordinance and to make subsequent amendments, including the one concerning LGBT issues. The state Supreme Court has never ruled on that precise question. The Asheville Blade has reported that the Asheville city attorney looked at the matter prior to the passage of HB2 and concluded that the city did not have authority. That’s all I know. Sorry I can’t be more definitive, but that’s often the case with novel legal questions. We’ll have to see what happens in the recently filed ACLU case.

      • ACLU files baseless lawsuit:

        “The privacy rights and safety of North Carolina citizens shouldn’t be cast aside or used as a political pawn for special interest groups that desire to impose their agenda to create a genderless society. Part of that agenda now includes challenging a commonsense law that ensures grown men don’t shower and use the bathroom next to little girls. This law protects everyone’s privacy by ensuring that bathrooms, showers, locker rooms, and other intimate settings remain private and based on one’s biological sex while also offering accommodations to those with special circumstances. The threat that schools will lose funding in implementing this sensible standard is simply false. Title IX specifically allows schools to ‘provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex.’ No school has ever lost funding in the nearly 44 years since Title IX became law, and federal courts have ruled in favor of schools that have adopted privacy policies similar to this—making clear that Title IX does not require schools to open up restrooms to members of the opposite sex…”

        • mynameis

          “The ACLU files a lawsuit against a baseless law.”

          There, I fixed it for you.

  3. Robert Thompson

    Four questions: Do I need to start carrying my birth certificate so I may use public and business restrooms?

    How is such a law enforced?

    Can a male janitor now not clean a women’s restroom?

    McCrory calls it “bi-partisan effort” when the Senate Democrats walk out in protest prior to the vote being cast?

    • Peter Robbins

      Answer to first question: You will not be required to show a birth certificate at the restroom. That would be an irrational overreaction to a complete non-problem. All you will have to do is bring your birth certificate to the Department of Motor Vehicles and, if the middle names match up and you don’t look like a Kenyan, they will issue you a sex-photo ID.

      • mynameis

        In lieu of a sex-photo ID, you may present other forms of identification, but you will be precluded from further bowel movements until your sex ID is verified.

    • “bi-partisan effort”

      Yes. House Bill 2 received bipartisan support. “Although Senate Democrats walked out en masse rather than vote for what they termed a “farce”, in the House the bill received bipartisan support – meaning that 11 Democrats voted for the bill, those being:

      Rep. William Brisson (Bladen)
      Rep. Charles Graham (Robeson)
      Rep. Elmer Floyd (Cumberland)
      Rep. George Graham (Lenoir)
      Rep. Ken Goodman (Richmond)
      Rep. Howard Hunter (Hertford)
      Rep. Larry Bell (Sampson)
      Rep. Garland Pierce (Scotland)
      Rep. Brad Salmon (Harnett)
      Rep. William Richardson (Cumberland)
      Rep. Michael Wray (Northampton)”

      “On a strong bipartisan vote of 83-25, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed legislation this afternoon invalidating a recently-passed Charlotte City Council ordinance that would have forced private businesses to allow grown men to use restrooms, locker rooms, saunas, and other facilities normally designated for women and girls. The Senate followed-up later in the day with a unanimous vote in support of the bill — after that chamber’s liberal Democrats stormed off in a huff. (Editor’s Note: this dramatic move, in which Senate Democrats staged a walk-out and held a press conference, allowed them to conveniently avoid going on record as voting NO on a popular bill they rhetorically opposed. But that’s politics.) Fortunately anyway, 11 conservative Democrats joined all the Republicans present on the House floor to approve House Bill 2, the ‘Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.’”

  4. Lulz

    LOL, ain’t they spechul lulz. And on the other side of it, the cuckservatives are of course using men as scapegoats to pretend it saves women and children. LOL, but let’s not look at the growing issue and rather sad state of affairs of female teachers that have sexual relations with minors in their classrooms. Who’s the real modern day predators? Men who labeled and shamed on top of having the government leash tightly gripped around their necks or women?

    • bsummers

      Yes, Lulz (if that is your real name…), once again you’ve honed in on the real problem vis-a-vis LGBT discrimination: “female teachers that have sexual relations with minors in their classrooms”. Deeeeeeeeerrrrrp.

      And congrats for being the first XPress commentor that I’ve seen anyway, to use the preferred slur of white-nationalists and facists: “cuckservative”. If you call yourself ‘conservative’ but aren’t pro-white, homophobic, or xenophobic enough, thank goodness there’s a pejorative that makes it clear you aren’t a real man.

      Stormfront much, “Lulz”?

  5. Yep

    such a dramatic over reaction by fools who didn’t even read NOR understand this legislation, including Rob Reiner!

  6. Yep

    Oh, also! now the new state LAW is the VERY same as the Buncombe County LAW on this, so are our county commissioners ‘racists’ too? Brownie, Holly ? Huh???

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