Three bills recently filed by state House Democrats would do what is right and fair by all North Carolinians and deserve broad support from both parties.
One of the bills, the Equality for All Act, would expand protections to LGBTQ people, specifically from being discriminated against when buying a home, seeking a job, receiving credit or getting insurance or public housing.
A second bill, the Mental Health Protection Act, would prohibit so-called “conversion therapy” for minors and discipline state-licensed counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists who engage in professional work to alter the sexual orientation of someone under age 18 or an adult with a disability.
And the third would fully repeal the unsavory remnants of the notorious House Bill 2 — the so-called “bathroom bill” that prevented local governments from approving LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances and forced transgender people to use public bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.
“Currently LGBTQ (members in) North Carolina — like so many other minorities — are treated like second-class citizens, without basic protection from discrimination,” Kendra Johnson of Equality NC told The Associated Press. These three bills would go a long way toward ending that discrimination.
As for conversion therapy, it is currently legal in North Carolina, but it has been outlawed in 15 states and the District of Columbia. It has been associated with the unscientific use of electroshock treatments and sleep-deprivation techniques — and judging from many first-hand accounts, it doesn’t work.
A deeper problem with such therapy is that it perpetuates the “ugly myth that we can and should be changed,” Allison Scott, a transgender woman with the Campaign for Southern Equality, said.
The bill “would send a message to all LGBTQ young people that we see them, we support them and we are here to ensure they’re safe and affirmed.”
With higher rates of depression and suicide among LGBTQ youth, often attributed to bullying and societal pressure, that’s an important message to get across.
HB 2, passed in 2016, led to a strong backlash from businesses that had considered expansion here, as well as organizers of sporting events and musical performances. A 2017 law that removed some of its more offensive ingredients didn’t go far enough. We should show the business, sporting and entertainment industries that we’ll treat their employees and customers with respect.
Obviously, not everyone agrees.
Tami Fitzgerald of the N.C. Values Coalition said that these bills promote divisiveness and threaten “the right to free speech, the right to practice our religious beliefs without fear of government interference or retribution (and) the right as parents to oversee the upbringing of our own children.”
But those are among the very rights that are currently denied to members of the LGBTQ community. But one’s “rights” should not be dependent on denying someone else’s rights. The state shouldn’t base its treatment of minority groups on conservative reluctance or condemnation.
Members of the LGBTQ community have had to face discrimination — including false claims that they are more likely to molest youth — for too long. As taxpaying, law-abiding, contributing members of society, they deserve to be treated as such.
Our state needs to be big enough — and fair enough — for all of its citizens.