[Diocese of North Carolina] On March 23, the North Carolina General Assembly convened a one-day special session to consider HB2, which legislators passed and Governor Pat McCrory signed the same day. The bill, drafted in response to a Charlotte City Council ordinance granting people the right to use gender-specific facilities based on their gender identity, not only reversed the local council’s action but also prevents local governments from extending anti-discrimination protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. Such protections are not included in the state’s anti-discrimination law. HB2 additionally prevents plaintiffs from filing anti-discrimination claims in state courts and prevents local governments from setting a minimum wage for private employers higher than the state minimum wage.
The legislation drew immediate criticism and has become the subject of national debate. The bishops’ statement issued April 26 follows.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In our baptismal covenant, we commit “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” For many, this is the most difficult promise in the covenant, as it calls us to move beyond our differences, expectations, fears, prejudices and misunderstandings about other people and meet them where they are. At times, it means standing up in the world and speaking truth to power, knowing that there will be resistance. This promise takes us out of our comfort zone and into the uncharted territory of God’s grace.
In the highly polarized and political environment in which we live, we may be tempted to take sides on an issue or to back off entirely and be silent. But the issue of discrimination is not partisan, nor is it secular. The practice of discrimination by a state or institution limits, even prohibits, us from respecting the dignity of another human being. It inhibits our very capacity to care for one another and to work for the common good. This affects all people.
On March 23, 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2 (HB2). This bill overtly discriminates against LGBT people and goes further by cutting back on protection against discrimination for anyone in the state. HB2 does this by:
• Refusing to understand the complexity of the lives of transgender persons and criminalizing nonproblematic behavior by members only of that community; • Overturning the local passage of laws by the city of Charlotte to allow transgender persons to use the gender-specific facilities matching their identities, and requiring all people to use facilities according to the biological sex listed on their birth certificates;
• Preventing cities and counties from establishing ordinances extending protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons, while making no effort to call for protection at the state level; • Making it more difficult for people who are being discriminated against for reasons of race, age, sex, religion or disability to take legal action by making them take their cases to federal court instead of to the state;
• Discriminating against the working poor by restricting a community’s ability to demand that contractors raise minimum wages to living wages and pay for vacation and sick leave.
In the weeks since the passing of HB2, other states have followed suit, putting forth bills openly supporting discrimination against LGBT persons. Such discrimination by the state reinforces the fear and prejudices of people who do not know or understand the lives of people who are already marginalized in our society. It cultivates an environment in which we do not respect the dignity of each person but instead fight to hold on to personal power and privilege.
The response against HB2, in North Carolina and around the world, shows evidence that this bill affects the lives of more than a few people using the bathroom; it touches on the ongoing struggle for equality.
As a Church, we seek to love unconditionally as witnessed in the life of Jesus and follow his example by embracing those who are marginalized by society.
We affirm that all people are created in the image of God and are loved by God.
We oppose laws supporting discrimination against anyone by race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, genetic information or disability.
These are complex issues with wide-reaching ramifications. HB2 was introduced and passed into law in one day, without sufficient time to listen to the voices of all who are affected by the bill. The mounting economic losses for North Carolina show this hasty process did not leave room to consider what impact HB2 would have on our state. We are all paying the price.
Because we strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity every human being, we call on the North Carolina State Legislature to repeal HB2. We encourage our leaders to listen to the experiences of LGBT citizens and to seek to understand their lives and circumstances. Furthermore, we offer our prayers and support for the LGBT community, and for all who are affected by this bill.
The Right Reverend Anne E. Hodges-Copple
Bishop Diocesan Pro Tempore of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina
The Right Reverend Porter Taylor
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina
The Right Reverend Robert S. Skirving
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina
The Right Reverend Peter James Lee
Bishop Assisting of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina