Citizen Green: HB 142 is only the start of a long fight over LGBTQ rights

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Chris Mosier cycling
Team USA duathlon competitor Chris Mosier (courtesy photo)

Chris Mosier, the first transgender athlete to earn a place on Team USA, qualified for his second national team in Cary in May 2016, just months after the passage of HB 2, allowing him to compete in the Duathlon World Championship in Aviles, Spain.

The location of the qualifying competition put Mosier, who is the vice president of You Can Play, in an impossible position. He had spoken out against North Carolina’s infamous “bathroom law,” and yet foregoing the competition would have likely stalled his career at the peak of his athletic ability. And besides, not competing would have amounted to surrendering to bigotry.

“It was one of the most meaningful races of my career,” Mosier recalled last week. “I was nervous and concerned about not so much the race as getting to the race, getting around the hotel. Most of my competitors were not concerned about these things. I excelled when I was able to stop worrying about what people said about me at the starting line, and I began winning my age groups. Imagine being at the starting line of one of the most important races of your career: Someone came up to me and asked if I was Chris Mosier, and I jumped because I didn’t know what they were going to say.

“Outside of the competition I chose not to wear my uniform that said ‘Mosier’ because I had spoken out against HB 2,” he continued. “The law said that we are not worthy of legal protections, and that we shouldn’t be included in public life. For me as an athlete, having access to locker rooms is critical. Having access to public spaces like hotels on the way to race or competition is critical.”

HB 142, the so-called “repeal” bill passed by the GOP supermajority in the state General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on March 30, was supposed to lift the cloud of shame from North Carolina. By now we know it was a little more than a chimera designed to provide cover for sports organizations like the NCAA to bring sporting events back to North Carolina while LGBTQ people remained unprotected from discrimination.

While acknowledging that HB 142 was imperfect and incomplete — it places a moratorium on local ordinances providing protections against LGBTQ discrimination through 2020 — Cooper announced upon signing the bill: “We begin to end discrimination in North Carolina. We begin to bring back jobs and sporting events. We begin to repair our reputation.”

Less than a week later, the NCAA Board of Governors announced that the collegiate athletics association would consider returning sporting events to North Carolina. The board of governors’ official statement on the matter characterizes the decision as reluctant and conditional.

“We are actively determining site selections, and this new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment,” the statement reads. “If we find that our expectations of a discrimination-free environment are not met, we will not hesitate to take necessary action at any time.”

Once again, Mosier will be competing in the duathlon national championship in Cary on April 29, but he said he plans to avoid leaving the competition facility so that he isn’t subjected to adverse experiences.

“HB 142 is now more than a symbol of intolerance,” he said. “It is a direct barrier to the equality of LGBT athletes. I believe that by rewarding North Carolina the message has been sent that transgender people are not worthy of inclusion. This type of legislation can spread to other states. The NCAAA has shown that there will be no consequences. It’s about more than profit; this is about the safety and inclusion of transgender athletes, coaches, students and fans.”

As part of its conditional reinstatement of North Carolina as a site for athletic events, the NCAA Board of Governors stipulated “that any site awarded a championship event in North Carolina or elsewhere be required to submit additional documentation demonstrating how student-athletes and fans will be protected from discrimination.”

On April 6, the ACLU filed public records requests with Greensboro, Cary and three other North Carolina cities — along with 11 universities including UNCG and NC A&T University — requesting documentation to show how they will protect LGBTQ persons against discrimination at a site where a championship is awarded.

Meanwhile, since the passage of HB 142, 16 Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth), have filed legislation that would criminalize people who use bathrooms opposite their biological sex by increasing penalties for second-degree trespass.

Far from being a signal that the fight over LGBTQ discrimination in North Carolina is over, it’s clear that HB 142 is only the beginning of a battle that will be with us for years to come.