By Gary Resnick, Mayor of the City of Wilton Manors
For some reason, conservative policymakers who disfavor government regulation, love regulating the bathrooms people can use. Recently, the North Carolina Legislature called a Special Session, not to address the budget, a court mandate, or an emergency. No, they needed to deal with a local ordinance passed by the City of Charlotte prohibiting discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons and allowing people to use the bathroom for the gender with which they identify. Apparently, conservative lawmakers thought this was outrageous.
They used this as an opportunity not only to pass a wide-ranging bill barring people from bathrooms and locker rooms that do not match the gender on their birth certificates, but also to preempt any local government law that prohibits discrimination against LGBT persons or raises the minimum wage above the State’s. While Democrats in the North Carolina Senate walked out in protest, the bill passed and the Governor signed it into law.
Part of the problem with the NC law is that it directly preempts municipalities from adopting policies in the best interests of their citizens, which as a Mayor, I oppose for obvious reasons. The more important issue with this law is that it institutionalizes discrimination against members of the LGBT community.
We have seen other states pass similar laws institutionalizing discrimination against the LGBT community: Two states, TN and ARK, adopted laws that preempt local non-discrimination provisions. In February, South Dakota considered a bill mandating that persons use bathrooms tied to the sex on their birth certificates, but the Republican Governor vetoed it saying local lawmakers were better equipped to handle such issues.
The so-called “Religious Liberty” bills considered by Indiana, Arizona and passed recently by the Georgia Legislature are really just forms of legalized discrimination. On March 28, Georgia’s Governor announced he was vetoing HB 757, stating that “Georgia is a welcoming State.” I am glad Governor Deal vetoed the bill. Obviously, the pressure by companies like Walt Disney Co., Marvel and the AMC Networks which threatened to stop film production in GA (with a potential impact of $1.7 billion in GA) helped convince the Governor to veto the controversial bill. Time Warner, Apple, Dell, IBM, Facebook, Google, and Wells Fargo, among others, publicly spoke out against the bill.
Florida considered such a law this session, and while the watered down version that passed was not as objectionable, our legislators got bogged down debating what bathrooms people would use to stop a statewide nondiscrimination bill from passing. Discrimination could be written into law again in Florida. All the measures supporting equality that Wilton Manors, Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, school boards, and local governments throughout the State have adopted to make lives better for everyone, could be overturned by a quick vote in our Legislature and signature by our Governor. Legislators do not need to dictate what bathrooms people use!
We need to show that laws that discriminate will have adverse impacts. Economic impact influences legislation. We should demonstrate that NC’s law will not be without consequences.
Let’s join San Francisco, NYC, and West Palm Beach and ban government paid travel to NC. With a well-respected School of Government at UNC, North Carolina hosts numerous seminars and conferences for government employees. We should also support the lawsuits against the State of North Carolina that are already planned by several organizations that fight discrimination. Also, friends and members of the LGBT community should avoid patronizing NC. Instead of Asheville, GA’s Blue Ridge mountains are great in summer and Fall!
For nearly two decades, Wilton Manors has been in the forefront of fighting for civil rights for the LGBT community, locally, throughout Florida and across the US. As Mayor, I will continue to support efforts to repeal or overturn North Carolina’s institutionalized discrimination and to end discrimination against the LGBT community.