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'The numbers are what they are': Legislators, LGBTQ+ activists prepare for veto overrides

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh, North Carolina, on March 6, 2023.

Photo Courtesy of Travis Long/The News & Observer/TNS.

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed three bills concerning LGBTQ+ youth – House Bills 547 and 808 and Senate Bill 49 – earlier this month.

These bills have not yet returned to the legislature for votes on a veto override.

Though these bills have been vetoed by Cooper, they are unlikely to be sustained because of the N.C. General Assembly's Republican supermajority following N.C. Rep. Tricia Cotham's (R-Mecklenburg) party switch in April.

S.B. 49, titled the Parent's Bill of Rights, outlines guidelines and restraints for discussing matters of gender and sexual identity in classroom settings, while H.B. 547 and H.B. 808 limit transgender youth participation in school sports and ban gender-affirming healthcare for minors, respectively.

Cooper has vetoed multiple pieces of legislation this summer, like S.B. 20 — an abortion ban law that now restricts abortion in North Carolina after 20 weeks. His veto was overridden 72-48 in the House and 30-20 in the Senate. 

"We are not successfully stopping legislation that discriminates against North Carolinians," N.C. Rep. Allen Buansi (D-Orange) said. "And that's very frustrating."

Buansi, along with all other Democrat members of the N.C. House, voted against all three bills. 

"It's frustrating to see these kinds of legislation move forward," Buansi said. "The numbers are what they are."

He also said that it was specifically difficult to see how Republican members of the legislature pushed S.B. 49 through the NCGA with minimal public input or debate, specifically with making amendments to the bill. 

"The Parent's Bill of Rights has some significant First Amendment implications," Ivy Johnson, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said. 

Johnson also said that the censorship in schools that is present in S.B. 49 creates a battleground for civil rights issues, particularly for the LGBTQ+ community. 

H.B. 547— the Fairness in Women's Sports Act — would designate sex at birth and prohibit transgender female athletes from participating in school sports on a middle, high school or collegiate level. 

Katie Jenifer, the policy director for Equality North Carolina, has a transgender daughter and said that many families, like their own, are making plans to seek resources outside the state if legislation like these bills continues to be pushed through the NCGA.

"The conversation around whether or not your identity is valid is harmful," Jenifer said.

H.B. 808 bans gender-affirming healthcare for minors in North Carolina, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy. The bill started out as a ban on surgical gender-affirming care for minors, but was later amended to include hormone therapy and puberty blockers. 

H.B. 808 includes provisions that would allow minors currently receiving gender-affirming healthcare as of Aug. 1 to continue their course of treatment. 

With this rise in legislation concerning LGBTQ+ youth, organizations like Equality N.C., ACLU N.C. and the Campaign for Southern Equality are participating in community organizing that aims to connect young LGBTQ+ people in North Carolina with resources. 

"It's just important that we don't just cross our fingers and hope that the vetoes are sustained," Adam Polaski, communications director for the Campaign for Southern Equality, said. 

Though legislation like H.B. 547, 808 and S.B. 49 will likely go into law because of the Republican supermajority, Polaski said that North Carolinians should look toward future elections — especially the 2024 governor's race.

"We're heading into a primary and a really challenging election," he said. "We're heading into primary for the governorship that has one of the most local anti-LGBT activists really, who is running and this is the front runner to become a candidate for governor."

The Campaign for Southern Equality recently launched the Southern Trans Youth Emergency Project, which provides transgender youth across the South with emergency funds and navigational resources.

"The project is designed to help folks who have trans kids to see that they have options despite the likely passage of an anti-transgender health care bill," Polaski said.

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He said that he wants North Carolinians to know that this project exists — and know that people are working in the state to make sure LGBTQ+ youth can access care.

Johnson said that although the legislature is set up a certain way, advocates for the LGBTQ+ community should continue to pursue both political and interpersonal avenues of advocacy. 

"This type of advocacy is really intersectional across the board, you can't really take just one approach," she said.

@wslivingston_

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com



Walker Livingston

Walker Livingston is a 2023-24 assistant city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer city & state editor. Walker is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and American studies, with a minor in data science.  

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