North Carolina Pagans react to passage of “Bathroom Bill”

Cara Schulz —  March 29, 2016 — 16 Comments

RALEIGH, NC — On Mar 23 North Carolina’s governor signed into law the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act. The bill is primarily known for its measures, which block local governments from allowing transgender persons to use bathrooms that do not match the biological sex as recorded on their birth certificates. The Wild Hunt takes a close look at the bill and gets reactions from Pagans living in North Carolina.

[Photo Credit: Mr.TinDC / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Mr.TinDC / Flickr]

Overview of Bill

The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act was created in response to the expansion of the city of Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which includes protections for marital and familial status, sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity. State Republican lawmakers said that Charlotte’s new ordinance would give men access to women’s bathrooms and locker rooms. Supporters of Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance said it provided much needed civil protects for vulnerable minorities.

The new ordinance was set to take effect on April 1.

The Public Facilities bill, which was passed during a Special Session, requires multi-stall bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools and government buildings to be used by people according to the sex recorded on their birth certificate. The bill does not apply to privately-owned buildings, businesses, or single stall bathrooms.

While the sections affecting bathroom use are the most discussed, there are other provisions in the bill. It bars cities from raising the minimum wage higher than what the state has set. It also sets a statewide nondiscrimination policy for privately-owned business open to the public, but limits that policy to discrimination against employees based on race, religion, color, national origin and biological sex.

Another provision to the bill eliminates the wrongful discharge/public policy cause of action in Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) discrimination cases. Previously, a person could sue in state court if they felt they were wrongfully terminated due to race, religion, color, national origin, or sex. There are benefits to suing in state court, rather than filing a federal discrimination claim under Title VII. One of the strongest of these benefits include a longer window of time to file the suit.

Under the new Public Facilities Act, if an employee believes they have been discriminated against based on a protected class status, they have to go through the federal process or lose the claim.

Local reactions

Star Bustamonte, Pagan, Near Asheville, North Carolina

“The recent bill Gov. McCory signed into law is a travesty of justice and typical of the kind manipulative legislation that has been getting passed since McCory took office. Being a Pagan, I can certainly see how HB 2 might impact the Pagan community if it is allowed to stand, but it goes far beyond that.

Star Bustamonte

Star Bustamonte

“My personal belief is the Transgender aspect of the law was merely window dressing that panders to the conservative right-wing. Mind you, I am in no way discounting the impact it will have on Transgendered people. It has the potential to be a disaster. The other impact of the law is the stuff that nightmares are made of. Preventing anyone from filing a job discrimination lawsuit at the state level is a huge and terrible idea. The NC legislature also seems bound & determined to wrest away any and all control municipalities have on pretty much anything, and doubly so if there is money involved. Charlotte’s ordinance on bathroom use was a just a very convenient way for Raleigh to impose more oppressive and regressive influence and ideology.

“This is nothing new as of late. And other states need to be paying attention because if they can make it stick here, it will be happening in other states very soon. Raleigh has taken control of airports and water departments all over the state to get their greedy little paws on the revenue. If you look at the things Duke Power has gotten away with when it comes to polluting environment, you begin to get a clue about the direction things are going. In less than a decade, NC has gone from being progressive and exhibiting excellence in education to being regressive and at the bottom of the heap. So if you think this law was about anything other than controlling people and money, you are dead wrong. And if you think it can’t happen in your state, you better think again. People need to wake up.”

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Byron Ballard, Goddess-focused Wiccan Trad, Asheville, North Carolina

“The bathroom issue is the tip of a very toxic iceberg, one that North Carolinians have been dealing with since the Republicans took over the legislature and the governorship. In no way is HB 2 good for NC and it is indicative of where we are here that the general assembly snuck this through with such speed and so little effort.  

Byron Ballard

Byron Ballard

“NC does not have ‘home rule’–every municipality serves at the pleasure of the General Assembly. The GA has-again and again–taken advantage of this to basically steal airports (Charlotte, Asheville), water systems (Asheville and several others) and to throw its collective muscle around. The state is heavily gerrymandered so elections are no guarantee that we can actually make change through the voting booth. So, no home rule, gerrymandered voting districts, a General Assembly and Governor who are nearly lock-step in their vision for the state.

“The Dems were in charge for a century and a half and didn’t change either of those things because they served them, too. Now, the Dems are in disarray–like deer in the headlights–and the government is run by people who have a fat ALEC checklist and are systematically checking things off.  

“HB2 is devastating for the LGBTQ community (specifically the trans community, of course) but it is so much more far-reaching than that. They have demolished Title IX protections, rolled back protections for civil rights. Women, of course, have no protection–NC has some of the harshest restrictions on abortion in the nation. As a Pagan and an American, I have no idea what can be done that will have any really effect. We don’t have any procedure for recalling the governor and impeachment (again) is at the whim of the legislature.”

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Laura LaVoie, Hellenic Polytheist, Asheville, North Carolina

“To put it mildly, HB2 is a legislative disgrace and its long term implications, which reach way beyond which bathroom someone should be using, are troubling at best. Not only does this law, under the guise of protecting women and children, place trans people directly in harm’s way, but it also restricts municipalities from creating any law to protect the people who live in their cities. This includes the possibility of raising the minimum wage above that of the state, which in a city like Asheville where the housing crisis is spiraling out of control, will never give the city government a way to provide better opportunities for members of our community.

Laura LaVoie

Laura LaVoie

“While I identify as a Hellenic Polytheist, my outrage at the passing of HB2 is rooted firmly in my belief that all human beings are complete human beings. My religious practices strongly hinge on integrity, reason, and good character. The values presented as those of North Carolina in HB2 are not consistent with my personal values.

“That this bill has so publicly declared that transgendered citizens of North Carolina are not worth of the same rights and protections as everyone else is, in my mind, a human tragedy.

“This bill passed because North Carolina has been systematically rejecting anything within its state borders that does not comply what the highest levels of state government say is ‘right.’ This began with a measure passed by the City of Charlotte. The state has proven time and time again that it is anti-city, and even though our state is not Home Rule, they still felt the need to send a clear message about this specific matter. Rather than simply striking down Charlotte’s ordinance, they were very calculated in their response.

“There is nothing right or just in denying our neighbors dignity and compassion. And disguising it under the mantle of protection for only certain, chosen, demographics of North Carolinians is sickening.

“On the other hand, I am proud of the way my city has chosen to respond to this law and we will, in every way possible, continue to work toward being a place that is welcoming and compassionate. And without that, I have real concern for our humanity.”

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The Wild Hunt did speak to a few Pagans who supported the bill, but they refused to go on record due to fears of ostracization.

Future of the Public Facilities Privacy & Securities Act
Even as the bill draws fire from other parts of the country, including travel bans for government employees from San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, and New York state, the Bill appears to be on safe ground legislatively. Republicans, who championed the bill, are expected to maintain control of the state House and Senate past the next election.

However, the bill is currently being challenged in the courts. On Mar 28, the ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal, and Equality North Carolina filed a joint federal lawsuit looking to overturn the bill. In a press release, the groups alledged that the Public Facilities Act “…sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded others in the state.” The complaint goes on to say that the bill is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and because it discriminates based on sex and Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees on the basis of sex.

Cara Schulz

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Cara Schulz is a journalist and author living in Minnesota with her husband and cat. She has previously written for PAGAN+politics, PNC-Minnesota, and Patheos. Her work has appeared in several books by Bibliotheca Alexandrina and she's the author of Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping and (Almost) Foolproof Mead Making. She loves red wine, camping, and has no tattoos.