This is what politics in North Carolina has come to 16 years into the 21st century.
The state’s largest city follows the lead of hundreds of other local governments across the country and adopts a common sense non-discrimination ordinance to protect the basic rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people and the current political leadership of the state explodes in a fury of fear-mongering and demagoguery that is simply breathtaking to behold.
Gov. Pat McCrory, always sensitive to shoring up his skeptical right-wing base, says the ordinance is extreme left-wing regulation —whatever that means — and that it is somehow a threat to public safety and he wants the General Assembly to step in and overrule the Charlotte City Council’s vote.
House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and other lawmakers appear to be in a contest to out pander each other with references to children at risk from sexual predators and pledges to overturn the “radical course” Charlotte leaders are on.
[The General Assembly is scheduled to return to Raleigh in April for its summer session where this, in all likelihood, will be brought up for consideration.]
Franklin Graham, who McCrory and other Republicans like to hang around with, called the ordinance “wicked and filthy.”
McCrory and his fellow right-wing politicians seem to believe they have found their wedge social issue for the 2016 election and are apparently willing to say almost anything to distort it for their political advantage.
The ordinance simply protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination by businesses open to the public. A hotel cannot refuse a room to a gay couple because they are gay just as they cannot refuse a room to an African-American because of their race.
It is hardly a radical concept.
Far-right religious groups don’t want any protections for LGBT people. Period. Politicians like McCrory and Moore are focusing primarily on the part of the ordinance that would allow transgender people to use the public restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
That is where all the absurd claims about predators and the danger to children come from. But as supporters of the ordinance point out, the laws governing behavior in public bathrooms haven’t changed and neither have the laws against assault, exposure, etc.
All the law does is allow transgender people to avoid harassment and intimidation when they use a public restroom.
And left out of the harrowing harangues from the pandering politicians is that more than 250 local governments have already adopted a similar ordinance, including Columbia, South Carolina — a conservative town where at last check there has been no flurry of attempted bathroom assaults or fearful parents and children storming city hall.
And it’s tough to buy that it’s only the absurd bathroom issue that has McCrory and Moore so worked up. Both of them have refused to support legislation that provides basic workplace protections for LGBT people in the state.
You can still be fired in North Carolina simply for being gay. McCrory is apparently okay with that.
And who can forget that some legislative leaders during the debate about marriage equality a few years ago, stood side-by-side on stage with homophobic crusaders bellowing that gay people are an abomination and going to hell.
Many major corporations already have non-discrimination policies in place and nobody’s fleeing Apple or Bank of America over their bathroom policy.
Let’s hope corporate leaders speak out in the coming legislative debate about basic civil rights for our friends and neighbors and family members who are gay or transgender.
And let’s demand that our political leaders be better than this, and stop their bigoted speech and efforts to demonize people and scare us all for their own political gain.
Enough is enough. North Carolina must be better than this.