State Republicans cast lot with pride and prejudice
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
The negative consequences of North Carolina’s legislative declaration that the LGBT community is unwelcome in this state, known internationally now as HB2, were completely predictable. The law, slated to receive Gov. Pat McCrory’s signed blessing, is destined to become a step-by-step tutorial on the downward effects of using public fear and prejudice as working tools in matters of social importance.
The federal courts should ultimately determine — as history compels — that this reactionary anti-civil rights legislation is openly discriminatory and unconstitutional. But by then, the economic impact will have become visible and the damage to its national and worldwide reputation could take another decade to overcome.
This law was nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction, drawing on dark fundamentalist principles of bigotry and intolerance. The final version that awaits McCrory’s signature remains as discriminatory and intolerable as the first draft, despite a weak attempt to create an illusion of compromise. Throughout this process, the governor has drawn on overworn and stale political tactics, using stock phrases like “common-sense legislation” in his inconcealable appeal to the darker angels of human nature.
McCrory fully realizes that the only threat people in the LGBT community pose is to highlight his and others’ fundamentally intolerant interpretation of proper mores and values. There is adequate protection under the law against all forms of sexual assault and predation, whether from straight or, much less likely, from LGBT people. The bigots among the legislative power-wielders already know that the greatest threat of harm flows in the opposite direction from zealots like them.
The mistake this governor and legislative majority made was to cling to the appeal of old social prejudices over the only truth that matters in the end: All citizens of this state and all states are constitutionally entitled to equal rights and protections.
The disservice done to North Carolina by McCrory’s actions and those of his reactionary General Assembly colleagues is no different than that of their their predecessors decades earlier. They simply have rebranded their inherent intolerance.
The only real question in play here is how tightly those in power will cling to their strategic blunder and how much political damage they foment if constitutionally forced to behave tolerantly.
Repeal of HB2 was and is the only acceptable state action. The ultimate responsibility for determining its constitutional authority rests in federal court. How deeply and widely the damage spreads remains to be seen. The governor can still avoid the worst consequences with a veto.
If Donald Trump does not win in November, Republicans might regret the decision of their leadership to withhold consideration of President Obama’s temperately conservative Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, should this case travel that far.