Read Paul Stam’s Letter (It’s a Different Kind of Common Sense.)

OK, Springsteen fans. Late yesterday Representative Paul Stam, Speaker of the NC House, sent a letter to every local elected official outlining the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act (SL 2016-3, or HB2) and how it corrects for the “big government overreach” of the Charlotte City Council.  Apparently his office has received a few phone calls asking for clarification on some questions related to the economy, Title IX funding, and veterans.  (If he has received inquiries about other things, such as equal protection, employment discrimination claims, and federal constitutional issues, he doesn’t let on.)

After ticking off the five provisions in the law, of which only one addresses public bathrooms, he neatly summarizes it:

The common sense law assures North Carolina residents, businesses and visitors that their reasonable expectation of privacy in public restrooms or changing facilities will be honored.

Oh, the irony.

You can read the letter here. And I suggest you read between the lines, too.  You will learn that:

  • HB2 enhances the economy because…Squirrel! Squirrel! Squirrel!
  • No school district, university or state has ever lost Title IX funding, because the US Department of Education is just a big bully.  And as you know, North Carolina stands up to bullies.
  • While SL 2016-3 might quite possibly but sort of unclearly discriminate against Veterans, there are more than two dozen other ways the state supports them. For example, did you know that G.S. 113-174.2(c)(6) grants a lifetime fishing license for resident disabled veterans? Besides, federal law prohibits discrimination against veterans, so it’s OK if the State didn’t think that part through. You’ll win in court.
  • Non-veterans that need employment protections, such as women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and seniors? Good luck with that, if you can find a way to get to court in the first place.

Stam’s letter is non-responsive to the specific questions he seeks to address, and it evades the many others we know he and his peers have received in the weeks since HB2 passed.  It is perhaps indicative of the pressure that state legislators are facing each time a company pulls up stakes, a law suit is filed, or a local government passes a resolution condemning the law. It is also indicative of the deep privilege of denial afforded to people in power who use the system simply to keep it.

I’m feeling more irony coming on. Because I think North Carolina does know how to stand up to bullies. Early signs:

  • Our statewide delegation isn’t having it. (Don’t let that 32-0 Senate vote fool you. Those who chose not to vote unfortunately register as a yes.) Senator Val Foushee walked out of the ramrod vote and Rep. Insko and Rep. Meyer voted loudly no.
  • Local governments are pushing back. Read about Carrboro’s resolution calling for repeal here, thanks to the leadership of Mayor Lydia Lavelle and Alderman Damon Seils. Orange County, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and Durham also have their own resolutions, along with many others rippling through the state.
  • Citizens are taking initiative. Hooray to Fiona Mathews of Carrboro’s Bowbar, who worked with friends to make the No Bigots Served poster available to anyone who wants one. I think I’ll use it as my screen saver.
  • And the lawsuits are beginning to flow.

None of this is enough, of course, and the Boss could cancel a million times to nary a legislative blink.  But we have primary and general elections coming up this year and other organized and informal opportunities to show our strength as the true blue state we are. We have our work cut out for us.

And so does Paul Stam.