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Protesters Shut Down Chapel Hill Street As HB2 Backlash Continues

Demonstrators gathered on Franklin Street to protest House Bill 2.
Jessa O'Connor
Demonstrators gathered on Franklin Street Tuesday to protest House Bill 2.

Amid national criticism over the law that restricts anti-discrimination protection, McCrory says he's willing to "make this bill better."

Chapel Hill Police shut down Franklin Street last night, as hundreds gathered to protest a North Carolina law restricting local non-discrimination ordinances.

The state legislature passed the measure last week in response to a Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed trans-gender people to use the public bathroom of their choice.

"This bill impacts young trans and gender nonconforming youth of color who are already funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline," said a Chapel Hill demonstrator called Q, who identified as gender nonconforming. "They're being criminalized and arrested and threatened with suspension for the bathroom that they choose to use."

Q said House Bill 2 also leaves trans people of color without recourse against discrimination from employers.

Protesters shut down Franklin Street Tuesday night to speak out against House Bill 2.
Credit Will McInerney
Protesters shut down Franklin Street Tuesday night to speak out against House Bill 2.

The outcry extends past this college town.

Advocacy groups are suing North Carolina in federal court, and state Attorney General Roy Cooper says he won't defend the law.

MIT web designer Emily Waggoner created a map of bathrooms in North Carolina that are safe for trans people to use.

The CEOs of Triangle-based companies Seventh Generation and the Redwoods Group have joined Facebook, Apple, Marriott, and more than 80 other corporations that have come out against HB2. The governors of New York, Vermont and Washington have prohibited non-essential travel to North Carolina. President Obama publicly disapproved of the measure.

Meanwhile, Governor Pat McCrory—who signed the last the day of its passage in the legislature—suggested Tuesday he's open to revising it. "Let's put aside our differences, the political rhetoric and yes, hypocrisy, and work on solutions that will make this bill better in the future," McCrory said in a video.

"North Carolina has been the target of a vicious nationwide smear campaign," McCrory also said in the YouTube video released by his office. "Disregarding the facts, other politicians from the White House to mayors, to state capitols and city council members, and even our attorney general have initiated and promoted conflict to advance their political agenda and tear down our state."

McCrory says these leaders should respect the differences of other entities and obey the law of the land.

The new law, in addition to preempting the Charlotte ordinance, overturns all local non-discrimination ordinances in North Carolina. It replaces them with one statewide law that bars discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, biological sex, or handicap.

But unlike some of the local ordinances it overrides, the new state law provides no protection for sexual orientation, gender identity, or veteran status.

The N.C. Values Commission, which lobbied to overturn Charlotte's nondiscrimination ordinance, released a list of small businesses supporting the new law. But the group said some businesses fear retaliation if they show public support. In a news release yesterday, the Coalition said bullying from the LGBT community has some business owners afraid for the well-being of their businesses and families if they speak out.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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