As you probably know, North Carolina recently passed a “screw you” law against the transgender community, House Bill 2, known colloquially as the “bathroom bill” because it limits use of state bathrooms in government buildings (including schools) and rest areas according to the gender on one’s birth certificate. Not without irony, HB2 started a pissing match between the state and the feds, who consider such laws a matter of sex discrimination. At some point, SCOTUS will decide the fate of the bathroom provision, but a second provision will likely be left in place until it too is litigated via a much longer path — the bill revokes all of the state’s LGBT protections enacted in progressive communities like Charlotte, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Asheville and even my hometown of Boone. On top of that, they made it impossible to sue for any kind of discrimination in state courts, throwing all such claims to the more restrictive federal system.
I’ve lived most of my adult life outside North Carolina: 10 years in California and about 25 in Florida, but I’m back here in NC now for good. Like many of you, I’ve thought at times it might be best for the South to secede once and for all so the people of Jesusland could elect their church-based government and leave progress to the rest of us in the United States of Canada. Alas, we’d be leaving behind some cool places, not the least of which is the High Country of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And Austin. And New Orleans. And perhaps your hometown too.
I’m happy to see that so many of you haven’t written us off, haven’t left your LGBT family behind to be persecuted by the “family values” of the GOP South. This is my love letter to businesses who’ve pulled back on development in the state. Thank you for standing up for your workers, for demanding a more welcoming community where everyone is treated with equality. Thank you to states like New York and California who banned official travel to NC; to organizations like the NCAA and NBA for serving notice that this isn’t compatible with your inclusive missions; and to the artists who canceled their performances to send a message that discrimination isn’t all right. Your decisions are costing our state revenue — and I thank you! Because our voices aren’t strong enough on their own. We need allies. A whopping 61% of NC voters turned out against same-sex marriage in 2012, so you can see what we’re up against. We’re willing to suffer the consequences in the short run to win in the end, but we need your continued help.
While some are boycotting, I want to say a special thanks to those who are coming to the state for the express purpose of fortifying the LGBT community. To authors like Garrard Conley and Garth Greenwell, who held anti-HB2 book events in the state, and to musicians like Mumford & Sons and Cyndi Lauper, who donated the profits from their NC concert to LGBT charities. To comedian Joel McHale, who performed in Durham and donated his earnings to the LGBT center there.
Last summer at GCLS, Rita Mae Brown took to the stage to remind us that the battle for equality didn’t end with the passage of same-sex marriage. Her message — “it’s not over” — was all too prescient. We can’t rest until we’re equal everywhere.