‘It will backfire.’ Charlotte advocates decry NC anti-gay bill

·3 min read
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Charlotte LGBTQ+ advocates and leaders are speaking out against a bill filed by some North Carolina Republican lawmakers Tuesday.

House Bill 755 would ban teaching about gender or sexuality to early elementary school students up to third grade and could require teachers to out gay, gender-nonconforming and transgender students to their families.

At least a dozen other states are considering similar bills, referred to as “Don’t Say Gay” bills by critics. Details vary but they generally prohibit schools from discussing or teaching about gender identity or sexual orientation.

Clark Simon, the president of Charlotte Pride’s Board of Directors, released a statement Tuesday night condemning the proposed legislation.

“Charlotte Pride condemns any efforts which make our schools or communities unsafe for LGBTQ young people, parents, teachers, and school staff,” it reads. “This legislation, if passed, would drastically and negatively impact the ability of young people to realize their full potential in a safe and welcoming learning environment. Legislators should focus their attention on making schools safer and fostering environments where the most vulnerable of our youth can thrive and succeed.”

The statement says the bill would endanger students who are already at risk — young queer people are already four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. LGBTQ+ students who attended affirming schools reported lower attempted suicide rates, according to the Trevor Project.

LGBTQ+ Democrats of Mecklenburg County released a similar statement of opposition Wednesday morning.

“This proposed legislation from North Carolina Republicans is part of a coordinated, nationwide attack on LGBTQ+ youth’s right to exist safely in our schools. Trans youth, in particular, have been vilified,” it says. “Precisely like Florida, this bill will have a chilling effect on classrooms and teachers across the state. The enforcement mechanism allows for any parent to sue any teacher, a chaotic system that places additional burdens and strains on our educators.”

Mecklenburg County LGBTQ+ Democrats president Cameron Pruette called on North Carolina leaders to “stand up for LGBTQ+ youth.”

“This bill, like countless others before it, targets vulnerable students and will unquestionably lead to higher rates of mental distress and self-harm,” he said.

RELATED: Charlotte-area private school says LGBTQ+ students may be kicked out

North Carolina ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

North Carolina Republicans say the bill isn’t intended to be homophobic or anti-gay, but pro-parent.

If students in any grade tell teachers or counselors anything related to their gender identity or sexual orientation, the bill would force school employees to tell parents, if they ask, according to details about the proposed legislation reported Tuesday by The (Raleigh) News & Observer. Though the bill doesn’t publish teachers for talking about gender or sexuality if the subjects come up “organically,” just in the curriculum, it’s not clear how that might play out in court.

The bill would also allow parents more access to classroom textbooks and curriculum, and if schools don’t comply, parents could sue.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, could veto the bill. As of Tuesday night, a spokesperson for the governor said he would further review the bill before commenting, according to the News & Observer.

Simon, with Charlotte Pride, said the bill evokes memories of Raleigh’s “last anti-LGBT discrimination bill” in 2016, House Bill 2, which banned transgender people from using the public restrooms they wished. The introduction of the legislation sparked national outcry and lost the state millions of dollars in revenue.

It was only this past August that Charlotte was able to expand its nondiscrimination ordinance to include LGBTQ+ protections, but it still does not include bathrooms.

“It will backfire,” Simon said.