North Carolina’s HB2, a law that prohibits transgender people from using the restroom that matches their gender in schools and public buildings, has become increasingly unpopular, but Gov. Pat McCrory (R) — who has also become increasingly unpopular — is trying to shrug it off. In an interview with WETA last week, he claimed that the law is “irrelevant” because it’s being disputed in the courts and other states are getting involved in the fight.
“The fact of the matter is…HB2 is actually irrelevant now,” he said, “because the Obama Administration has given a directive through EEOC — through the Justice Department, and to our universities — basically saying, ‘If you do not recognize the concept of gender identity, the redefining of sex from the 1964 Civil Rights Act — you can lose your funding.’” In the same breath, McCrory said that the guidance is not currently enforceable because a federal judge in Texas recently issued an injunction blocking it, but he stuck to his argument.
“This is all going to the Supreme Court, so when the media keeps talking about HB2, HB2 is irrelevant because now 21 other states are suing the federal government along with the state of North Carolina.” He went on to accuse the media of a “planned and strategic” overreaction led by “the HRC.”
The only problem with McCrory’s claim is that HB2 is still very much in effect in North Carolina, making it very relevant to the transgender people impacted by it.
Just two weeks ago, a federal judge ruled that the University of North Carolina could not enforce HB2, but that injunction only applied to three specific transgender plaintiffs in that case. The ACLU of North Carolina and Lambda Legal are appealing in hopes of finding broader relief for all transgender North Carolinians while the case plays out, but that relief is not guaranteed.
Furthermore, neither that particular case nor the suits directly between North Carolina officials and the federal government — which have been delayed until March while the Supreme Court considers a similar case in Virginia — address the aspect of HB2 that prohibits municipalities from extending nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In fact, the law was passed specifically to override protections that Charlotte passed at the local level. Aside from inconsistent protections some have found at the federal level, it remains legal to fire, evict, or refuse service to someone for being LGBT in North Carolina.
McCrory and other state Republican officials have downplayed or outright ignored the actual impact of HB2 as they’ve defended it throughout the year. In April, McCrory issued an executive order that didn’t address any of the discriminatory portions of the law, then continued to insist there was nothing wrong with it. In May, he called it “common sense,” then he invested taxpayer money in suing the federal government to defend it. In June, lawmakers considered a fix to HB2 that once again ignored the most problematic parts of the law. When the NBA announced in July that it was pulling the All-Star Game from Charlotte, McCrory lashed out, calling the decision “PC BS” and “an insult.”
This strategy isn’t working for McCrory. Attorney General Roy Cooper (D), who has refused to defend HB2 and is challenging McCrory in the gubernatorial race, currently enjoys a comfortable lead. In various August polls, Cooper led by six, seven, and nine points. The same poll that had McCrory down by nine also found an even wider gap on HB2, with 55 percent disapproving and only 36 percent approving of the law.
Nevertheless, McCrory’s sticking with it. He recently released a TV ad that falsely claims that transgender protections would make kids unsafe:
Cooper’s campaign slammed the governor for his comments that HB2 is “irrelevant.” Jamal Little, a spokesman for the campaign, noted in a statement that McCrory has disregarded the financial consequences the state has suffered because of the discriminatory law. “While our state loses countless jobs and dollars in lost revenue, Governor McCrory continues to ignore the devastating impact this law has on North Carolinians,” Little said. “How can we fix this problem if we have a governor who won’t even acknowledge it exists? It’s time for a leader who will work to repeal House Bill 2 and put the interests of North Carolinians first.”