On March 23, 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly convened a special session to review, debate, and ultimately pass House Bill 2, titled the “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.” Later that same day, Governor Pat McCrory signed the bill into law. Given the name of the bill, it seems fairly benign, but HB2 is anything but.
As this CNN article explains, the special session was called specifically to circumvent a controversial Charlotte City Council ordinance that would provide individuals with new protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. According to The Charlotte Observer, the most debated part of the ordinance allows people to use bathroom facilities based on gender identity rather than biological sex. The ordinance was approved in a 7-4 vote and was scheduled to go into effect April 1, 2016. However, as the Charlotte Observer article notes, “In an email Sunday, Gov. Pat McCrory said the bathroom provision would likely cause ‘immediate’ action by legislators.” That action came in the form of a special session of the North Carolina General Assembly and the passage of HB2.
HB2, however, does much more than nullify Charlotte’s decision regarding bathroom usage. In the words of Charlotte’s Mayor Jennifer Roberts, “This legislation is literally the most anti-LGBT legislation in the country. It sanctions discrimination against the LGBT community.” The legislation provides legal protection of rights in employment and public accommodation for individuals on the basis of “race, religion, color, national origin, age, biological sex or handicap,” and goes on to state that these protections cannot be expanded by “any ordinance, regulation, resolution, or policy adopted or imposed by a unit of local government or other political subdivision of the State.” In other words, local governments can no longer define discrimination within their own towns, cities, or counties.
How Will HB2 Affect Libraries?
I reached out to LaJuan Pringle in order to gain a better understanding of what HB2 will mean for North Carolina libraries. Mr. Pringle, a library professional in North Carolina and Co-Chair of the North Carolina Library Association’s Legislative and Advocacy Committee, shared some of his personal views regarding HB2 and its implications. We would like to make it clear that statements he made to HLS are reflective only of his own feelings, and do not represent the views of the North Carolina Library Association or any other organization. The following is his statement regarding the new law:
North Carolina House Bill 2 is a serious blow to the nationwide equality strides made over the last year. As a library professional living in NC, I wonder how this law will affect recruitment and retention of librarians in our state. While I strongly believe that my state is home to some of the best libraries and library schools in the nation, I am concerned that the passing of HB2 sends a message to librarians and library school students that if you are not heterosexual or cisgender, you are not welcome in my state. This is not who we are. This bill is unacceptable.
I believe that libraries in NC will always be inclusive spaces. My personal feelings are that libraries will rise to the occasion and do all that they can to provide inclusive spaces for our library users and staff, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. The damage for public and school libraries remains to be seen at this time. It is my hope that this law is overturned and we will never have to find out.
LaJuan Pringle, library manager, Charlotte, NC
Mr. Pringle’s concerns regarding the message HB2 sends to librarians and students are not unfounded. Already, North Carolina is facing the economic impact of this legislation from companies and other governments (New York State, New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and West Palm Beach, so far) who oppose it. The High Point Market, the state’s largest economic event, is already seeing significant backlash and potential boycotts over the legislation.
In less than three days HB2 managed to impact the library community. The Association for Library Service to Children is scheduled to hold its 2016 National Institute in Charlotte. In response to HB2, however, ALSC President Andrew Medlar emailed the organization’s listserv that, “ALSC leadership is taking this very seriously and has already begun communication with ALA’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) to work together on how to most effectively stand up for our core values and address the situation.” Undoubtedly, this legislation has affected the country’s view of North Carolina, and it is far from unreasonable to predict that this perception will influence library professionals’ decisions to work and study in the state. After all, would you want to move to a state the New York Times has named a “Pioneer in Bigotry“?
While Mr. Pringle states that “damage for public and school libraries remains to be seen at this time,” the American Civil Liberties Union warns that North Carolina could lose $4.5 billion in Title IX funding. Guess what? According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Title IX applies to institutions that receive federal financial assistance from ED, including state and local educational agencies. These agencies include approximately 16,500 local school districts, 7,000 postsecondary institutions, as well as charter schools, for-profit schools, libraries, and museums.” This isn’t exactly a gray area either: in 2014, the Department of Education made it clear that Title IX protects transgender students. If HB2 isn’t repealed, North Carolina could face a massive funding loss for our profession.
What Can We Do?
Like Mr. Pringle, I hope this law is overturned before its ramifications are fully realized. There is certainly hope that this will be the case. A federal lawsuit has already been filed and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (also the gubernatorial candidate opposing Gov. McCrory) has refused to defend the legislation in that lawsuit. However, on the other side of the issue, Gov. McCrory says he will not repeal the law and referred to the criticism as “political theater” in an NBC News interview.
There are actions you can take to help overturn HB2 and prevent similar legislation, as well as ways you can show the LGBT community that they have your support. This Bustle article lists ways to protest the law, including attending rallies like this one held in Raleigh on March 25th and social media activism. You can voice your concern with your wallet, a tactic which had a powerful effect in Indiana when they passed similar (though less far-reaching) legislation. Other HLS writers have also shared useful information on reaching out to politicians and getting political. For everyone, however, perhaps the most vital advice I can give is to be an informed voter in your local and state elections.
What else can we as library students do to promote equality and discourage harmful legislation like HB2? Share your thoughts in the comment section.