HB2 continues to Haunt North Carolina

Charlotte and the Carolinas: Facebook shuts down Franklin Graham’s page, Netflix plans to stop Wilmington production shoot

On Feb. 22, 2016, as most qnotes readers know, Charlotte passed a local ordinance that added sexual orientation and gender identity to protected non-discrimination categories. An important part of that bill allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identified with, both in government facilities and in places of public accommodation, such as restaurants and hotels.

Then Gov. Pat McCrory seized on the local ordinance as an opportunity to capture conservative support in his bid for reelection and concocted House Bill 2 (HB2), which overrode local ordinances statewide and prevented the aforementioned discrimination protection.

Although its impact was only on government owned property, reaction from the public was harsh and swift, from both the left and right. McCrory’s tactic, obviously, backfired.

HB2 was repealed and replaced with House Bill 142 (HB142), which no longer prevents transgender people from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. However, a portion of HB142 prevents local cities and towns from enacting non-discrimination ordinances until 2020.

That bill has since been approved for challenge by U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder.

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Regardless, the cloud of HB2 has continued to hang over Charlotte and North Carolina, not unlike the gray overcast skies and rain that plagued the city for much of December and early January.

Late last month “evangelist” Franklin Graham experienced a reminder of his anti-transgender stance on the discriminatory bill when his Facebook page was shut down for 24 hours in response to a nearly three-year-old post.

Graham’s post focused on rock musician Bruce Springsteen, who had refused to play in North Carolina over the legislation.

“Bruce Springsteen, a long-time gay rights activist, has cancelled his North Carolina concert. He says the NC law #HB2 to prevent men from being able to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms is going “backwards instead of forwards. Well, to be honest, we need to go back! Back to God. Back to respecting and honoring his commands. Back to common sense. Mr. Springsteen, a nation embracing sin and bowing at the feet of godless secularism and political correctness is not progress.”

A reminder: Graham’s words are based on his personal opinions and should not be misconstrued as factual.

While it is not clear who tipped off Facebook about Graham’s nearly three-year-old post and flagged it as hate speech, the end result left him without access to his account for 24 hours.

“I was defending our governor and the state on HB2.” Graham said in an interview on The Fox Channel. “It was a good law. If you disagree with [Facebook’s] position on sexual orientation, you can be classified as hate speech.”

A Facebook spokesperson informed Graham the post had been removed after one of its 15,000 content moderators decided that it violated the tech giant’s ban on “dehumanizing language.” However, the company later backtracked, reopened his page, apologized to Graham and called the action a mistake.

Graham questioned why the tech giant would censure such an old post and offered this response: “I think it was … a personal attack towards me.”

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In a post to his Facebook page, Graham later claimed the company was trying to define truth.

“They’re making the rules and changing the rules. Truth is truth. God made the rules and his word is truth. Facebook is censoring free speech. The free exchange of ideas is part of our country’s DNA.”

Wit Tuttell, the executive director of Visit NC confirms HB2 continues to have a negative impact on the state. “There are still people who bring it up when discussing visiting our state,” he said at a tourism presentation in Winston-Salem, N.C.
There’s no doubt the action hasn’t been forgotten, and individuals like Graham still continue to stoke the flames.

California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington, as well as several major cities such as Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Santa Fe continue to ban government-financed travel to North Carolina.

“Meetings, sporting events, films are still experiencing it,” Tuttell said during the presentation.

As recently as January 8, television producer Jonas Pate told The StarNews in Wilmington, N.C. that Netflix decided against filming his new series “OBX” in North Carolina because of the clause in HB2’s replacement (HB142) that prevents new local anti-discrimination ordinances until 2020.

Pate, who says he is a native North Carolinian, says that clause is costing Wilmington “70 good, clean, pension-paying jobs,” but that he is continuing to press for the Wilmington location. Production is projected to spend around $60 million where it films, which has now potentially been set foe South Carolina.

On the plus side, Pate says “OBX” could still film in Wilmington if legislators accelerate the clause’s overturn. Recently elected state Sen. Harper Peterson concurs, indicating that he’s like see the issue brought up at the start of the General Assembly’s session.

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Posted by David Aaron Moore

David Aaron Moore is a former editor of QNotes, serving in the role from 2003 to 2007. He is currently a contributing writer for QNotes. Moore is a native of North Carolina and the author of "Charlotte: Murder, Mystery and Mayhem" from History Press. Moore has worked for several mainstream and LGBTQ publications as editor, staff writer, contributor and freelancer.

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