Amid a contested election, anti-LGBTQ violence on the rise

HB2 remains a controversial and costly issue

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Ralayzia Taylor, a 24-year-old transgender woman, was smoking a cigarette in a Charlotte park when a group of teens attacked her with a hatchet, calling her “faggot.” Charges have been filed against the two 18-year-old attackers, and two minors are being held in connection as well.

However, The Charlotte Observer reported that Taylor has been arrested and accused of committing a sex act with the 15-year-old, under-aged teen in the minutes before the robbery. “As a result, detectives have charged Taylor, 24, with one count of statutory sex offense and one count of indecent liberties with a child, said a police statement,” the Observer added. Taylor was under extradition from Ohio at the time of the reporting on Nov. 18. The outcome is yet to be determined with regard to the cases.

Stories don’t end there, however, as more incidents of violence have increased nationwide against LGBTQ people.

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The FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics report was released this week, detailing incidents that took place in 2015. The report shows that hate crimes against transgender people have more than tripled—from 31 in 2013 to 114 in 2015. The number of hate crimes based on sexual orientation also increased by 3.5 percent.

Even with the situation around Taylor’s arrest currently pending court action, the story is still a poignant one, and the significance of its location can’t be overstated. Charlotte has this year become the epicenter of the national transgender rights debate, after the City Council passed a sweeping non-discrimination ordinance and the N.C. General Assembly, in response, passed House Bill 2 (HB2).

HB2, which prevents non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people and dictates the public restroom use of transgender people, has been controversial since its inception. Just a few days after it was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, plaintiffs across the state filed a lawsuit, Carcaño v. McCrory, which contests the legislation as discriminatory.

Gov. McCrory has defended the law consistently, perhaps to his own detriment. The incumbent governor is currently in limbo regarding his re-election, refusing to concede until all provisional ballots are counted. Opponent Roy Cooper currently leads by 5,000 votes. However, not all sources attribute the governor’s disadvantage to HB2.

“Compared to tolls, HB2 is a non-issue in north Mecklenburg,” Jim Puckett, county commissioner, told The Charlotte Observer.

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Whether or not the violation of human rights weighed on the minds of Mecklenburg county voters, there’s no denying that the fight over HB2 rages on. The governor’s legal defense of HB2 has recently included demanding access to the plaintiffs’ medical records. Presumably, this is an effort to support the medical theory of “gender dysphoria” cited in motions McCrory filed early in the legal battle. The transgender plaintiffs filed a protective order on Oct. 20, calling the GOP’s actions “harassment.” Federal judge Joi Elizabeth Peake will decide the issue.

McCrory is not the only defendant in the suit; Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore have also been named for their role in HB2’s passage and defense. The N.C. suit—protective orders aside—is on the back burner until the Supreme Court hears a similar case from a transgender plaintiff in Virginia.

Meanwhile, the Observer confirmed a suspicion about the fallout of HB2. The corporation CoStar, reported to have considered Charlotte for a 730-job, $13 million expansion, chose Richmond instead. According to emails acquired by the Observer, the decision was seriously impacted by bad press over HB2.

“Heaven knows how many deals we’ve been crossed off the list and didn’t know we were even being considered for since March,” wrote Jeff Edge, a Charlotte chamber official tasked with recruiting the company. “As long as neither side is willing to compromise on this issue, I fear this will be an epidemic outcome for many projects we are still in the running for at this time.”

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