The official response by the North Carolina Republican Party to the decision by the NCAA to move seven championship events out of the state next year because of the anti-LGBT law HB2 was startling and offensive.
GOP spokesperson Kami Mueller said the NCAA decision was “so absurd it’s almost comical” and was looking forward to the “NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams.”
Mueller called the decision an “assault to female athletes across the nation” and then said, “I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor.”
It’s not clear what the horrific sexual assault scandal at Baylor has to do with a law that bans protections against discrimination for LGBT people but Mueller’s comments set off a firestorm of criticism for equating the two.
And Mueller’s comments weren’t just offensive. They were revealing too.
As ridiculous as the opposition of HB2 supporters including Gov. Pat McCrory is about the common sense idea to allow transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity — as 200 plus cities already do without problems — that is not all HB2 does.
The NCAA made it clear in its statement about its decision to pull the tournament events out of the state that it’s not just about bathroom and shower facilities. The NCAA points out that HB2 bans local governments in North Carolina from protecting LGBT people from discrimination and provides protections for public officials (in this case magistrates) that refuse services to the LGBT community.
HB2 was never just about treating transgender people with dignity when it comes to public facilities. It is about a last stand against LGBT rights overall. The debate in the legislative special session that adopted the bill provided compelling evidence of that.
Both the House and Senate refused amendments that would add LGBT people to the statewide nondiscrimination law. Not only were the amendments turned aside, the law included protections for “biological sex” because federal courts and the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission have interpreted sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
State lawmakers and Gov. McCrory wanted to make sure that discrimination against LGBT people remained legal statewide and the law forbids any local government from providing protections on their own.
That’s what this debate and all the boycotts and the loss of jobs and tourism revenue is all about. HB2 is a message to the country and the world that North Carolina is fine with discrimination, that it is OK for businesses to fire people or deny them services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
And apparently it is OK with officials in McCrory’s Republican Party like Kami Mueller to equate sexual assault with boycotts because of HB2. And then there is Lt. Gov. Dan Forest who said recently that “transgenderism is a feeling … it could be a feeling just for the day.”
There’s McCrory himself whose lawyers have argued in court on his behalf that transgender people are sick and mentally ill and need treatment, not protections from discrimination. His attorneys cite as experts people from a fringe medical group that believes gay kids can be “cured” with the widely discredited farce of reparative therapy.
There’s House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam who on the House floor has equated being gay to bestiality and pedophilia.
There’s a frightening homophobia running through the top levels of North Carolina Republican Party and that’s what really behind HB2.
They have enshrined that prejudice into state law even though it is out of step with most people in North Carolina and across the country, including the vast majority of corporate executives and the leaders of the entertainment and sports industries like the NCAA.
McCrory and Forest and Mueller are clearly on the losing side here. Discrimination won’t win.
The question now is how much more damage will be done to North Carolina in the meantime as their far-right-crusade against equality enters its final and desperate phase.
Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.