How far we’ve come since HB 2, the 2016 “Bathroom Bill” signed into law by then-Gov. Pat McCrory based on the premise that grown men want to hang out in the ladies’ room while our wives and daughters urinate.
The bill, which basically outlawed gender-neutral bathrooms, was clunky, unenforceable and outright hostile to LGBTQ+ North Carolinians, trans folks in particular. Which was, of course, the whole point.
Before it was partially repealed almost exactly a year later, it cost us sports tournaments, big concerts, film and television shoots and untold millions in lost tourist dollars. It turned off prospective college students and companies considering relocating here — as well as homegrown businesses that began to entertain recruitment offers from other states. And it made our fine state seem like it was run by a bunch of homophobic rubes, so out of touch with American life that they thought they could legislate gender.
On Wednesday, Guilford Rep. Pricey Harrison became one of the primary sponsors of HB452, known in the Senate as SB392: the Mental Health Protection Act, which states that “contemporary science recognizes that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is part of the natural spectrum of human identity and is not a disease, disorder, or illness….” It outlaws conversion therapy — “any practices or treatments that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity” — by social workers, counselors, therapists psychologists and psychiatrists. And it stipulates that no state money can be used for conversion therapy, including insurance coverage, or go to any agencies that perform it.
It was one of a slew of bills aimed at righting the historic wrongs set by HB2: HB451 fully repeals the remnants of HB2 that survived the compromise. HB450, “An Act to Protect All North Carolinians Against Discrimination in All Walks of Life,” adds religion, sex, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation and gender identity to the “protected status” list of things subject to unlawful discrimination. HB449 eliminates the “panic defense,” which defendants can currently use to justify violence against LGBTQ+ North Carolinians.
Taken together, these bills represent the biggest move towards equality our state has taken in years, an official rejection of the warped values that inspired HB2, and some rectification of the shame and financial pain it brought up us all.
Remember, these bills have a ways to go before being enacted into law. But with them lies the conscience of our state.
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