Governor Deal

The differing responses to anti-LGBT laws in Georgia & North Carolina

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced Monday that he will veto HB757, Georgia’s version of a so-called “Religious Freedom” bill. Let’s be honest, he did this because everyone was looking at Georgia and major corporations threatened to boycott. The reaction to a bigoted law in North Carolina at around the same time has been very different, though.

Georiga’s religious liberty bill mirrors a similar law in Indiana that caused controversy this same time last year. It is an anti-LGBT measure that is particularly in response to marriage equality. That is not the case with North Carolina’s HB 2, which was aimed specifically at the trans community, and mostly trans women and young trans people at that. The law overturned Charlotte’s recently passed protections for LGBT people, by outlawing municipalities’ ability to pass local anti-discrimination ordinances, a staple to the LGBT movement in more conservative states. To add insult to injury, HB 2 also requires that anyone who wishes to use the bathroom must use the one that corresponds with the sex indicated on their driver’s license and birth certificate. The push for this law focused on “men in women’s bathrooms,” a bigoted attack on trans women’s right to pee, as well as on trans youth in a cruel act of bullying. HB 2 combines the worst of Arkansas’s anti-anti discrimination law with South Dakota’s vetoed “bathroom bill.”

In a statement, Deal said: “”This is about the character of our state and the character of its people. Georgia is a welcoming state filled with warm, friendly and loving people. Our cities and countryside are populated with people who worship God in a myriad of ways and in very diverse settings. Our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.

“For that reason, I will veto HB 757.”

I’m not saying his words are not sincere, but I’m a bit skeptical that if the Atlanta professional sports teams had not come out against the bill, and the NFL hadn’t threatened to never let Atlanta host a Super Bowl, and Disney/Marvel vowed not to film in the state, he would have vetoed. It is notable that sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression did not make it into his statement, so whether or not Deal suddenly had a change of heart on the issue remains to be seen. Given the fact, however, that this is the second time in two years Georgia has had this conversation, I’m not particularly hopeful. 

That said, the business and sporting communities made a difference in Georgia because they were able to be ahead on the issue, and because, let’s be honest, “religious freedom” as an anti-gay response is a more palatable issue. North Carolina attacked the most vulnerable of the LGBT community, transgender women and young people, using tactics we’ve seen before in places like South Dakota and Houston. Time and time again, however, the response to these attacks have been after the fact. These attacks on trans women are coming from states whose equality organizations do not have the resources that many organizations located in Los Angeles, New York, and Washington D.C. do. This has to change, especially in the face of such willful ignorance and prejudice as displayed by Gov. McCory himself.

Gov. McCory has doubled down on the state’s anti-LGBT law that has put trans people in its crosshairs, saying to NBC News that the criticism around the law Is “political theater” and “political correctness gone amok.”

While businesses were swift to threaten boycott in Georgia, the same cannot be said of North Carolina. An attack aimed at trans people simply did not inspire major corporations to threaten to pull their business in time to have an impact. The legal reaction, though, has been swift, with Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and Equality North Carolina filing suit against the state.

I have very little more to say other than McCory is THE WORST, and LGBT people in North Carolina – where trans folks are particularly under attack – will continue to need resources, so please do not turn your back on them.

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Katie Barnes (they/them/their) is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer. While at St. Olaf College studying History and (oddly) Russian (among other things), Katie fell in love with politics, and doing the hard work in the hard places. A retired fanfiction writer, Katie now actually enjoys writing with their name attached. Katie actually loves cornfields, and thinks there is nothing better than a summer night's drive through the Indiana countryside. They love basketball and are a huge fan of the UConn women's team. When not fighting the good fight, you can usually find Katie watching sports, writing, or reading a good book.

Katie Barnes is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer.

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