Queen City Nerve

Charlotte's Cultural Pulse

Editor’s Note: We Don’t Deserve the All-Star Game
Your regular reminder that HB2 never really died

By Ryan Pitkin

February 13, 2019

It’s been a wild ride, but All-Star Weekend is finally here. Let’s be honest, though: Charlotte does not deserve it.

Quick history lesson for folks not from around here — since everyone who is from around here know it well.  

In February 2016, Charlotte City Council passed a nondiscrimination ordinance that prohibited local businesses from discriminating against gay, lesbian or transgender people. Simple enough, right? Let’s all go about our business in a more inclusive city, right?

Not so fast. For every action, there is a reaction, and in North Carolina that usually means conservatives belligerently overreacting to a progressive decision by using fearmongering to stir their base into a frenzy.

In this case, they focused on the idea that transgender people would be allowed to use bathrooms based on the gender that they identify as (gasp!), claiming that this would lead to all sorts of debauchery and predatory behavior, despite all recorded evidence to the contrary. And that’s how we got the shitshow that was HB2.

Rather than focus on things that actually matter, North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers convened a special session on March 23, 2016, to pass the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, making it retroactively illegal for municipalities to expand upon existing nondiscrimination ordinances to make them more inclusive.

And thereafter followed a disaster the likes of which North Carolina has never seen before.

OK, I’m being a little over dramatic with that statement, but anyone who lived in Charlotte during 2016 can tell you that HB2 was a cloud that hung over the state for far too long.

Hunter Schafer (left) and Miquel Rodrigues of Raleigh protest the North Carolina General Assembly passage of HB2 known as “the bathroom bill” during a special session on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. (Photo by James Willamor)

Among the reactions to HB2 was NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s announcement that he would take the NBA All-Star Game away from Charlotte, as it was originally planned to be held in the Queen City in 2017 for the first time in 26 years.

This, perhaps more than anything, was the type of PR disaster that convinced even some conservatives to rethink HB2 and find a “compromise” that would bring an end to the ill-advised law.

And that’s what we got, at least according to the headlines. On March 30, 2017, a full year and a week after the passage of HB2, the loathsome bill was finally repealed in a “compromise” that was widely heralded as an end to the madness.

But was it, though?

The repeal of HB2 was no compromise at all. The new law was more a repeal of Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance amendment than a repeal of HB2, and also prohibited towns and cities in the state from passing any such laws protecting LGBTQ people for the near future.

Silver acknowledged the fact that, while HB2 was technically gone, the lawmakers who passed it had won out in the end.

“While we understand the concerns of those who say the repeal of HB2 did not go far enough, we believe the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law,” he stated in a release.

In the end, Silver wasn’t about standing up for equal rights, he was about kowtowing to Michael Jordan, majority owner of the Hornets.

In his own release, Jordan unsurprisingly talked money, not civil rights.

“We want to thank Commissioner Silver for his leadership throughout this process and for the decision to bring NBA All-Star back to Buzz City,” he wrote. “All-Star Weekend is an international event that will provide a tremendous economic impact to our community while showcasing our city, our franchise and our passionate Hornets fan base to people around the world.”

To me, going back to where we were before is not leadership, it’s giving in. When progressive leaders back down, it lets the other side know that they can be easily manipulated to agree to “compromise” that is in fact capitulation. And now we find ourselves in a similar situation with the recent ramping up of immigration enforcement by federal authorities in our city, as I describe in this week’s news feature.

I only hope that McFadden and the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office stick to their guns on this one, because the progressive community should not be looking for any more compromises.

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