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N.C. legislators propose new protections for LGBTQ+ residents

Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality NC, speaks about the importance of HB 516, which would ban conversion therapy. The press conference was at the North Carolina State Legislature building on Thursday, March 28, 2019.

North Carolina legislators filed three bills in support of LGBTQ+ rights Thursday, a change of pace from anti-LGBTQ+ legislation filed last month.

Legislators and members of advocacy groups discussed the details and motives of the legislation at a press conference in the North Carolina Legislative Building shortly after the bills were filed.

“As a transgender woman, I know that the bills filed today will have a very real impact on the lives and legal equality of LGBTQ+ North Carolinians,” said Allison Scott, director of policy and programs at the Campaign for Southern Equality. 

House Bill 514 would ban discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, insurance, credit, education and jury service based on protected statuses including sexuality, gender identity and veteran status.

It is legal in North Carolina to discriminate against these categories — for example, an employer could choose to not hire or to fire an employee based on their sexuality or gender identity.

House Bill 515 is the shortest of the proposed legislation, advocating that the legislature eliminate the remnants of House Bill 2. The hotly-debated “bathroom bill” was partially repealed in 2017 by House Bill 142, but the new legislation prevents municipalities from creating anti-discrimination ordinances until 2020. 

“We need a full and clean repeal of House Bill 2 to restore the reputation of North Carolina and to let every North Carolinian know that this state is willing to embrace them and protect them from discrimination on all fronts,” said N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer, D-District-50, a primary sponsor of HB 515.

The final bill, House Bill 516, developed in part by advocacy groups Equality NC and the Campaign for Southern Equality, would ban LGBTQ+ conversion therapy in North Carolina by licensed counselors, therapists and psychiatrists for minors and disabled adults. It would also ban state funding for the practice. 

"North Carolina is better than this,” Equality N.C. Executive Director Kendra Johnson said. “We can and we must do better. Our youth deserve to grow up in a world that affirms that they are loved for exactly who they are."

Despite claims from the American Psychological Association and medical organizations about the severe damage caused by attempting to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity, it is still legal in North Carolina. With the passage of this legislation, North Carolina would be following in the path of fifteen other states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, in passing similar bans.

“I hope that we can add North Carolina to that number before another one of our young people or disabled adults is harmed by practices that are not medically sanctioned,” said N.C. Rep. Susan Fisher, D-District-114, a primary sponsor of the bill.

Though the Republican majority in the General Assembly could block potentially controversial legislation like the bills filed today, N.C. Policy Watch Director Rob Schofield said there is still value in proposing it. 

“It ought to be a no-brainer, and I really think it will be eventually, but you've got to start the conversation somewhere,” Schofield said. “This is due in North Carolina — we haven't really had a push of this kind with this kind of high-profile and energy in this direction in a long time.”

Some supporters of the legislation agreed.

"Legislation is tricky — just because it doesn’t pass the first time doesn’t mean we're going to stop fighting for it to be passed,” Cary High School student Quinn Mishra said. “ I'm definitely confident that it will get to pass at some point."


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