Cover Story

2016: The Year Of Discrimination

Cover Story
Written by Richard Hack

Will Florida Be Next?

Charlotte is a fine Southern city, the kind you might like to tour for several days if you’ve got the time. It was made even finer earlier this year when, in February, it passed an ordinance that allowed transgenders to use the restroom of their choice. In addition, the ordinance was part of an expanded nondiscrimination pact that also added protections for marital and familial status, sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity.

Last Wednesday night, now over a week ago, the North Carolina met in a late night session to push through another bill. This one, however, was not so kind to the LGBT community. In fact, it was downright full of bigotry and hate. (P.S. North Carolinans. That special session cost you an extra $42,000—right from the state treasury.)

Normally, of course, a bill of this magnitude would have had pubic debate…and a lot of it.  The Charlotte ordinance alone took an entire year to consider. But last Wednesday, public debate on this measure lasted only 30 minutes. As the Republicans stomped around like pompous obese swine, the Democrats walked out unable to contain their fellow politicos. When the dust finally settled some two hours later, the legislature of North Carolina had passed a bill that is not only unconstitutional, but it is also abhorrently repulsive by its very purpose..

It’s bad enough that transgenders can’t use the bathroom of their sexual identity in Charlotte; they can’t use it anywhere in the entire state. Additionally, it prohibits that all cities in North Carolina—and there are hundreds of them, cannot pass any antidiscrimination ordinances of any kind to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people.

Since that point there has been all sorts of hoopla from companies including American Airlines who have threatened to pull their money out of the Tar Heel State. Also headquartered in the neighborhood are Fresh Market, Haines, Krispy Kreme, Lab Corp of America, Reynolds American (the second largest tobacco company in the US), and Thomasville Furniture. They won’t be quite for along.

Bank of America has already spoken out in favor of the LGBT community. Also headquartered in NC are BB&T, Lexington State Bank, LBL Financial (the largest organization of independent financial advisors in the US) and Wachovia Bank (which is now owned by Wells Fargo). Hmm…Think any of the $850 billion in discretionary income in the investments of the LGBT community are going in their direction, think again!

What makes this entire bigoted mess all the worse is that North Carolina as a state was actually on the verge of becoming relevant again.  After years of pulling itself up out of the ashes of the civil war, through high-unemployment, low education, and a tanking economy, to finally be considered a player in the Old South, the people of North Carolina elected a Republican governor named Pat McCrory in January 2013, and for the first time since the reconstruction of the South had a Republican majority in both the House and the Senate. Shades of the entire United States come next January if a Republican President is elected.

Since McCrory’s election into office, years of progress on education and welfare have been obliterated. In mid-2013, McCrory stopped paying unemployment benefits to 70,000 of his people. That was quickly followed by another 100,000, who lost their benefits. And those that didn’t found them cut from a maximum weekly fee of $535 to a poverty level figure of $350. (And that’s the MAXIMUM…for which few actually qualified).

North Carolina is the only state that lost long term Federal benefits because it never paid back the $2.5 billion loaned to it in the Washington bailout during the Great Recession. At the same time, it cut back sharply on school funding, raking in the bottom five of all the states in the nation for teachers’ salaries.

They repealed the 2006 Racial Justice Act that was the first in the nation to allow death row inmates the opportunity to prove they were the victims of discrimination. The government refused to expand Medicaid, it raised its sales taxes while providing tax breaks for the wealthy, and closed down nearly every legally operating abortion clinics in the state. And now this.  A law so despicable that it was labeled by the state’s Attorney General that it made North Carolina “A pioneer in bigotry.”

Before you feel too comfortable that this sort of unjust, un-American and unconstitutional behavior is acceptable, remind yourself of this.  We live in a southern state now a whole lot different than North Carolina. We’ve got a Republican Governor who thinks he has all the answers, a Lieutenant Government who knows she has no answers but continues to go to court anyway, and a Legislature that is dominated in both the Senate and the House by Republicans.

What happened to the gays in North Carolina, will happen to the gays in Florida if we continue to keep our heads in the glorious white sands of our beaches. This is no longer someone else’s problem. The year is 2016. And antigay discrimination is on the ballot in every state in this union. Speak up now while you still have a voice.