Tip off between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Creighton Bluejays during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum. Streeter Lecka Getty Images
Tip off between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Creighton Bluejays during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum. Streeter Lecka Getty Images

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The NCAA’s important reminder on HB2

By Peter St. Onge

Associate Editor, Editorial Pages

September 13, 2016 9:24 AM

The NCAA’s decision Monday night to pull seven championship events from North Carolina was met with the usual rainbow of responses.

There was the comical:

“I genuinely look forward to the NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams,” said NCGOP spokesperson Kami Mueller.

There was the indignant:

“The NCAA is punishing the State of North Carolina because it dares to stand up for the common-sense notion that everyone has a right to privacy, decency, and safety in bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms,” said the N.C. Values Coalition.

From those caught in the middle, there was the plea:

“We welcome a speedy resolution of these issues from the courts,” said University of North Carolina system president Margaret Spellings.

But each response, along with a lot of others, missed a critical point the NCAA made Monday:

This is about more than bathrooms.

That was very clear in the NCAA’s statement, which gave four reasons North Carolina was being singled out. At the top of the list?

“North Carolina laws invalidate any local law that treats sexual orientation as a protected class or has a purpose to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.”

Specifically, HB2 invalidated Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance, which offered protections in businesses and public accommodations to the LGBT community. HB2 also told any cities that were thinking of doing the same not to bother.

Too often, this part of HB2 gets forgotten in the debate about bathrooms. But the whole of the law, not just the bad bathroom provision, is what prompted the NCAA to pull its championships out of our state.

That means even if North Carolina prevails in its dueling lawsuits with the Justice Department, and even if judges rule that the Obama administration went too far with its transgender guidelines for schools, there’s still a lot about HB2 that’s a problem.

A note: The ACLU has sued to stop HB2 from stripping the ability of cities to enact LGBT non-discrimination ordinances. But until federal protections are offered to LGBT individuals, it’s unlikely that judges will rewrite N.C. law, which allows lawmakers to tell local governments what they can’t do.

In other words: The courts won’t fix HB2 for North Carolina. It’s something N.C. lawmakers must do.

The NCAA spelled out how Monday. ACC Commissioner John Swofford hinted at the same hours later (which means that the ACC Football Championship in Charlotte also is in jeopardy). Those events – and the NBA All-Star Game – won’t return to North Carolina unless the state undoes the significant step backward it took on LGBT protections.

Intentionally or not, the NCGOP and NC Values Coalition missed that point Monday. But it’s always been true about HB2. This is about more than bathrooms. It’s about discrimination.

Peter St. Onge

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