CoastLine: As Opposition to HB2 Grows, NC Rep. Millis Defends its Intent

Apr 20, 2016

Governor Pat McCrory signed North Carolina House Bill 2 into law on March 23, 2016.  Popularly known as the "Bathroom Bill," the legislation catapulted the state into the national spotlight for requiring people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate.  The Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act also restricts local governments’ ability to raise the minimum wage or pass anti-discrimination ordinances of their own. 

Rapid passage of this law during a special session came in response to an ordinance enacted by the city of Charlotte that would have allowed people to use restrooms based on gender identity.   

The fallout from the law continues almost daily. PayPal was the first high-profile company to scuttle business expansion in the state (a corporate hub was planned for Charlotte).  Deutsche Bank decided not to expand in North Carolina, and a letter of concern to the Governor over the law was signed by 80 major company executives – including CEOs Tim Cook of Apple and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. 

Raleigh’s Tourism Bureau announced earlier this week that it has lost nearly $3 million in business due to travel cancellations.  Some estimates put statewide revenue losses at nearly half a billion dollars.  Bruce Springsteen, Boston, Pearl Jam, and Cirque du Soleil cancelled their North Carolina shows.  This past weekend, Author and Humorist David Sedaris ultimately chose to fulfill his concert date at UNCW.  At his Sunday night performance, Sedaris announced his $20,000 fee would go to Equality NC. 

And Tuesday night, the Wilmington City Council passed a surprise resolution calling for repeal of the law.  Raleigh City Council passed a similar resolution the same day.  Also on Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of a transgender teen’s right to use his bathroom of choice at school. 

Guests:

North Carolina Representative Chris Millis (R-Pender County) of District 16 (Pender County and western Onslow County)

Matt Hirschy, Advancement Director, Equality North Carolina, an LGBT advocacy group involved in a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the legality of HB2

Chadwick Roberts, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Communications Studies at the University of North Carolina - Wilmington; teaches courses on gender and sexuality

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Rachel Lewis Hilburn: Representative Chris Millis, this appellate court ruling that just came down yesterday in favor of a transgender teen who was born female but identifies as male and wants to use that restroom– the court is saying Title IX protects the right of students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. And of course, in a statement, Governor Pat McCrory says he disagrees with the objective to force high schools to allow boys in girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, or shower facilities. What impact do you think this federal court ruling will have on North Carolina’s law?

Representative Chris Millis: Great question. In all honesty, we legislated according to the actual intentions of what Title IX was authored as, as well as the understanding of what the intent is of a federal constitution. So when you have judges who ruled after the fact—even though other courts across the nation, including federal courts, have ruled opposite to this—this definitely creates a conflict that would have to be resolved at a higher court. But of course it doesn't affect how we legislated back in April, nor do I believe it will affect how we’ll legislate moving forward until a higher court actually resolves this conflict among the other courts. Again, unlike the aspects of what occurred in Virginia, what was actually established by way of House Bill 2 allows local school districts to accommodate transgender individuals while they also respect the privacy rights of students to be able to use the bathroom facility, locker room facility, and shower facility according to their biological sex. And I will say, in regard to the opening, in terms of, it’s not more or less defined as how you are born, as an individual can amend their birth certificate in the state of North Carolina. So just wanted to add that as well to set the record straight.

RLH: So corresponding with what’s on your birth certificate?

Representative Chris Millis: Correct.

RLH: Right, okay. Thank you for that. Representative Millis, you said that the law in North Carolina does make accommodations for transgender students.  What are those accommodations? What could a high school do?

Representative Chris Millis: Specifically, in the actual House Bill 2, there is accommodations for local school districts to be able to accommodate an individual who may identify or express themselves as someone who is opposite of their biological sex by way of providing accommodations through a unisex bathroom. Again, all of those are actually carefully and clearly identified by way of House Bill 2, and a lot of what is being shared across the state and across the nation about House Bill 2 is a lot of misconceptions, a lot of half-truths. So I really appreciate the opportunity to be on the show today to hopefully shed some light about what it actually does and set the record straight about what it doesn’t do.

RLH: And those are some of the issues that we do want to get into, but I have to ask, Representative Millis, the short session begins next Monday, April 25th. Why was the passage of this bill so urgent that it required the governor to call a special session? Why couldn’t this wait for a more robust debate?

Representative Chris Millis: Great question. First and foremost, the governor did not call the special session. The special session was actually called on behalf of three-fifths of the legislative body and more or less forced the governor’s hand on this. The reason why we had to act with the urgency was clearly in protection of what was established by way of the Charlotte ordinance. What Charlotte did was mandated upon all private businesses to accommodate individuals by way of the gender they identify as or the gender they express themselves as without defining what gender identity was or defining what gender expression was, and also would create a situation that could violate the privacy rights of individuals—children, men and women—as you would have a situation—which has occurred in other states who have passed similar ordinances and even outside of the United States—where you’re actually allowing an individual who is not transgender, to just claim or identity they express themselves, even though they’re a biological man, as a woman and actually have access in some of the most intimate situations like the locker room of a gymnasium or a shower facility at a YMCA. It was an urgent need to intervene before that Charlotte ordinance went into effect and protect the privacy rights of the innocent that could have been violated. I’ll say this: While we respect the rights of all individuals to identify and express themselves as they please, what Charlotte clearly did was butt up against the respect also of the privacy rights of individuals and the loss of innocence. So really, for an individual to be able to walk into a bathroom of the opposite sex and disrobe right next to a child or disrobe right next to a woman. At the end of the day, it was more or less an urgent matter that we had to intervene. And of course, while we were there, we took care of the aspects of the anti-discrimination ordinance that was non-uniform, illegal, and unconstitutional that Charlotte passed and more or less reaffirmed what existing law was in regard to that as well. The urgency was solely around the protection of locker rooms, bathrooms, and showers of private businesses.

RLH: Matt Hirschy of Equality NC, if people are permitted to chose public restrooms based on their preference and not based on the gender on their birth certificate, are we likely to see more instances of predatory behavior in bathrooms and locker rooms?

Matt Hirschy: I want to unpack that question a little bit further if you don’t mind, Rachel.

RLH: Sure.

Matt Hirschy: At the end of the day, gender identity and gender expression is not a preference. This is how people live their lives on a day-to-day basis. A transgender woman is simply a woman. A transgender man is simply a man. And 100% of the time, they live their lives that way. This is not somebody who makes an off-choice to be some type of predator that would walk into a restroom. And I don’t know about you or your listeners, but personally, when I go to a restroom, it’s not my goal to cause a scene, and I know from my trans friends and family members that that’s not the case that they want to do either. They simply go to the restroom to use the restroom or go to a locker room to change and move on about their day. This is not some pivotal point about their day, that they want to just sneak into bathrooms. I do want to address that. Frankly, at the end of the day, there has not been one cited instance of a transgender person using this law for ill-gain, and the idea that somehow a predator would then use the law for ill-gain is, on its premise, I just don’t understand why we need to make a law about some hypothetical-maybe, I-don’t-know-if-this-is-going-to-happen situation. That has been fact-checked by multiple media outlets as well as third party fact checkers.

RLH: And Matt Hirschy, most people by this point are familiar with the very broad arguments against this bill, but it’s been called by LGBT advocacy groups and civil rights groups a very broad anti-LGBT piece of legislation. What specifically, besides the restroom issue in this bill, is so offensive that you joined a lawsuit with the ACLU over it?

Matt Hirschy: At the end of the day, what it does is it affects how Title IX is implicated in the state, and the Fourth Circuit, which, by the way, is one of the most conservative courts of appeal in the country, reaffirmed that, that this law really does jeopardize Title IX and its implications on education pieces. The Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution is at play here. Yes, we now have a statewide nondiscrimination statute, finally, and we’re very happy to see that, but to explicitly leave out members of the LGBT community from that when the LGBT community is still a very marginalized group and one that faces constant discrimination in the workplace and at home is frankly, on its face, discriminatory.

RLH: Chadwick Roberts, explain to us, first, what it means to be transgender. What is a transgender person?

Professor Chadwick Roberts: A transgender person is going to be someone whose gender identity does not match up with their sex assigned at birth.

RLH: Is this a psychological disorder?

Professor Chadwick Roberts: It is not classified as a psychological disorder any longer. The designation for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is gender dysphoria, so a discomfort with your sex designation at birth.

RLH: And when you take a look at HB2, this law that was recently passed that has gained national attention, what are you hearing from folks in the transgender community about what this says to them, when Representative Millis talks about schools, for instance, making accommodations for kids who are transgender?

Professor Chadwick Roberts: Well, students that I’ve had that are transgender, transgender members of the community are worried about their own safety. Statistics tell us that 61% of trans people in the United States have reported psychical violence as a result of their gender identity. 64% of trans citizens have reported sexual assaults associated with their gender identity. So there’s fear, there’s fear associated with not being able to make a choice for your own safety, feeling disregarded as your safety isn’t being considered as part of this discussion.

Michael (caller): I just wanted to ask, how is HB2 practically going to be enforced? It just seems strange to me. What, are we going to have potty police or something?

RLH: Michael, you raise a point that I’ve heard raised over and over again. Representative Chris Millis, what is the talk about how something like this would be enforced? I think even a sheriff from Richland County in South Carolina weighed in and said he’s not going to ask his personnel to inspect people’s genitalia. What do you say to that question?

Representative Chris Millis: Again, great question. One thing that needs to be understood is that House Bill 2 reaffirms what existing laws have been and more or less preempts what was the illegal and unconstitutional action by the Charlotte City Council. So in terms of the actual aspects of enforcement and there being a “potty police,” is not the case. In the same aspects, if we didn’t act, and we sit there and allow individuals to just claim—not actually be, but claim—to identify as a member of the opposite sex and to actually express themselves as the opposite sex, and be able to walk into a bathroom, locker room, or shower facility and violate the privacy rights of another just based on their identity, that’s even more problematic enforcement aspects, and that’s what other local governments across the nation have experienced is that it can’t be enforced and you’re legally protecting someone who claims to be something that they’re not and providing a gateway for sexual predators. It’s not a hypothetical, it’s actual. So, in regard to the potty police, it’s never been the case in the past and it won’t be the case moving forward. It just more or less clarifies existing privacy rights. For anyone to claim that it does anything more than that is absolutely incorrect.

Paul (caller): I just had a general comment. It seems to me that, if we just take a step back, and how many high school boys would love to gain access to a girls’ locker room? And let’s say that all transgender people are perfect and never have ill-will, so let’s just take that argument off the table, how many pedophiles and how many rapists would love the opportunity to access the opposite sex’s bathroom? This really seems to be more of a public safety issue than an LGBT rights issue.

RLH: Matt Hirschy from Equality NC, I want to ask you about this because this is the picture that we’re seeing painted over and over again: The father of a young daughter is horrified at the notion of a straight man dressing up as a woman so he can come into the locker room and watch his daughter undress. What do you say to that?

Matt Hirschy: I would like to directly respond to that and say this: If we are so concerned about rapists and predators and the like entering into locker rooms, why aren’t we focusing on laws that combat rape and that deal with rape prevention and deal with sexual predators and making sure that there are tougher penalties there for those people who do very despicable things that I personally and as an organization and as a community we are completely opposed to. Transgender women, particularly transgender women of color, are at higher risk for sexual violence in the bathroom, and they are at a higher risk for violence in public places. To say that we don’t want to protect women and children is ridiculous. I mean, at the end of the day, I have a mother, I have sisters, I have aunts and uncles and cousins, and I care very much about their safety in the restroom, but we also have to talk about the safety of trans people in this discussion, and I really feel like that’s really being left out here in order to scapegoat part of this argument towards bathrooms. We really have to think about who we’re talking about when we pass these laws. We’re not talking about predators. We’re talking about very marginalized, very hurt people that need these vital protections, and they need them very, very much.

Professor Chadwick Roberts: I would add to that a historical perspective. These same arguments about protecting innocence remind me a lot of arguments being made to justify lynching: protecting white womanhood and white innocence. All of those arguments, to me, sound reminiscent of arguments used to justify horrifying violence in the past against a minority.

RLH: Representative Millis, I do want to ask you about this because I’ve heard comparisons drawn also about this law with segregation from the 1960s, and I’ve heard people say, “Well, how is this different from that drinking fountain law?” So, what would you say to people who are saying this is a civil rights issue?

Representative Chris Millis: Wonderful question, and I’m glad that the professor brought this up because it needs to be discussed. One thing we need to understand about House Bill 2 is that, when reaffirming existing law, local governments still have the freedoms to pass nondiscriminatory protections for their employees. Every private business has the freedom to pass those same nondiscriminatory polices and to have their own policies involving and surrounding bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers. They all have that freedom existing. The only thing that House Bill 2 did was prevent a local government to non-uniformly, which is against the state constitution, to impose regulations upon private business. All these businesses have the freedom to do exactly how these individuals on the line are advocating for. It’s about the mandate against other private businesses. That needs to be understood first and foremost because it parallels and dovetails exactly into the whole civil rights discussion. I believe when individuals bring up the civil rights discussion, they need to understand the truth about what it was in the past. I mean that in the Democratic-controlled South, it was actually laws that were passed, laws from the state that were mandated upon private businesses to have segregation aspects and discriminate against an immutable aspect of someone’s race, which was absolutely horrible, wrong. I mean, I definitely don’t agree with, but it is no way comparison of what’s going on here in North Carolina. There’s no state law that is mandating that there be separate facilities for transgender, that is mandating that you have to discriminate against an individual based on their sexual preference.

RLH: For clarification, if there’s no mandate requiring separate accommodations for transgender people, what do you say to the question of safety for a transgender person—you know, a transgender woman walking into a men’s restroom is going to be at risk, and there are documented instances. Chadwick Roberts, do you have statistics on that, violence against transgender people?

Professor Chadwick Roberts: The majority of the victims of hate violence, homicides, 72% in 2013, are transgender women. They’re overrepresented in violent situations. They have a right to fear for their safety and have a safety concern. They’re 3.7 times more likely to experience police violence. Transgender women of color are at more of a risk of suffering from police violence. The history of violence against this community—it’s documented. There are statistics that should give us pause.

Representative Chris Millis: Again, let’s just say for the sake of debate, that we remove the aspects of individuals being able to falsely identify and falsely claim themselves just to have access to these facilities in the most private of situations, like we’ve already discussed, let’s just take that off the table and say that that doesn’t happen. We’re not talking about transgender individuals being sexual predators. We’re talking about individuals being sexual predators as a whole, not classifying anyone to be transgender or not. When you take that off the table, you’re getting to the safety aspects of transgender individuals, and it’s very simple. Private businesses have the freedom to provide those accommodations, and the individuals who fear for their safety can feel free to use those aspects of businesses to do that, or unlike what was done for the Charlotte City Council, illegally and unconstitutionally, anybody can offer a bill to the General Assembly to do what the members on this phone are advocating for. They can do that, it just has to be done through a legal and proper process. Not by way of local control, not by way of local tyranny. That would be my response, and again, if the statistics and the facts that are being claimed are actually true, I don’t know why the representative government wouldn’t take those claims in and provide proper accommodations if those claims and statistics and whatnot are true. But again, private businesses have the ability to accommodate today as well as the aspects of local governments when it comes to anti-discrimination.

Professor Chadwick Roberts: Seventeen states and two hundred cities have ordinances similar to Charlotte—these “tyrannical” ordinances. Where’s the evidence that this puts women and children at harm? Where’s the evidence, where are the statistics that these ordinances, which have been in existence for decades in many places, cause women and children to be put in peril? Where’s the evidence?

Representative Chris Millis: First and foremost, there has to be a proper process in regards to local laws and local controls, and there’s no doubt that this process can happen by way of the General Assembly. To directly answer your question, it’s been documented and reported in Washington state and others, that individuals actually have accessed these facilities—bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms—in the most intimate of situations, to gain access to be able to view individuals of the opposite sex.

RLH: Representative Millis, you’re talking about sexual predators that have gone into locker rooms and bathrooms?

Representative Chris Millis: Yes, and again, it’s happened in Washington state and others.

RLH: Are we conflating transgender people with sexual predators?

Representative Chris Millis: Not at all. All my comments that I’ve made and all my comments that I’ll continue to make, I basically have not classified sexual predators of being transgender or non-transgender. It’s the aspects of an individual, like myself, I can simply identify as a man or express myself as a woman and go into a women’s locker room or shower or bathroom facility in these other local governments that have passed these ordinances. Again, the statistics and the facts are there. There’s nothing hypothetical about this situation, and it is a reality. While I have respect and compassion for the individuals who have gender identity and gender expression concerns, I’m also compassionate and respectful or the rights of privacy for women, men, and children in these most intimate of situations.

Matt Hirschy: Two things. I think, directly, I would challenge the representative’s portrayal that somehow the General Assembly has been interested in passing protections for LGBT people. Our organization has supported legislation that has never once gotten out of committee for the past 12 years now that protects just public employees, which the Governor did and the Governor only did after extreme backlash from the business community. So yes, certainly there is a process to go through, but I don’t think there’s much of an appetite to do it at the General Assembly right now. Responding directly to his claim about a person in Seattle, a predator, that has actually been debunked itself. There was a man presenting as a man who walked into a public restroom in protest of one of these laws, saying he had the right to be there. Currently, that case is in court, but I really doubt that a judge is going to think that that man is somehow a transgender person or somehow that he has a legal right to be there. At the end of the day, I think we can all agree that discrimination is bad. It’s bad for business, bad for our brand as a state. Even if the proponents of this law and supporters of this law want to say that it’s not about discrimination, that’s fine, but we should never pass a law that opens up our state to the kind of backlash that we’ve had in the past few days.

Jack (email): Was the text or at least some of the terms of HB2 provided to you sponsors by ALEC?  If not, who outside the NC legislature provided at least some of the text or some of the terms? When did the sponsors begin drafting HB2?

Representative Chris Millis: That is not the case in the least bit. It was definitely authored by members of the Senate and members of the House, authored in direct response to what the Charlotte City Council did in order to reaffirm existing law and protect the privacy rights of all citizens of the state. It was in no way, shape, or form authored by some special interest group. It went through a committee process as what actually has to be done by way of a special session. So, everything was transparent, out in the public. Again, a lot of these false accusations that are being made are really unfortunate for the overall aspects of the debate. The debate is, local governments have the purviews, specific purviews, some are reserved for the state and more than happy to be introduced by way of General Assembly. But we also had to act in order to protect the privacy rights of men, women, and children across the state. Definitely glad that we did what we did. In no way, shape, or form is it discriminatory to reaffirm what the law has been prior to February of 2016 for hundreds of years. The only thing that really did change was we put, for the first time, in state statute, anti-discrimination statutes that directly mirror federal law.

Sean Ahlum from tekMountain (caller): We are very involved with this issue. We’ve actually taken a stance that we’re not arguing about LGBT rights, as we believe that HB2 is an inherently discriminatory policy and we support all members of our community. We believe this policy directly contradicts our efforts here to build a tech and entrepreneurial hub here in southeastern North Carolina.

RLH: So you’re saying you’re actually concerned about the economic fallout locally from this law?

Sean Ahlum: Absolutely.

RLH: Sean, you were telling us about a petition that tekMountain has started. This is a local tech business incubator. Can you tell us how many people have signed the petition?

Sean Ahlum: To date, we have over 225 people who have submitted their info, with representation from a wide array of businesses, public agencies, educational institutions, and just local citizens. Anybody else who wishes to add their voice to the conversation, they can visit tekMountain.com.

RLH: There are other petitions out there calling for repeal of this bill. We heard about Scholars in North Carolina. That’s a group of more than 500 faculty, graduate students, and staff representing more than twenty North Carolina colleges and universities.

Representative Millis, when you hear things like this, and the fact that Wilmington City Council just last night surprised everybody and passed a resolution calling for repeal of this bill. Does that give you pause about any of this? What do you think about the local and the national reaction to this bill?

Representative Chris Millis: Great question. First and foremost, it doesn’t give me pause at all. The only thing it makes me want to do is actually to articulate the truth even more. The truth about the bill, as I’ve said before, it reaffirms existing law that has been in place prior to February of 2016. So all of the business decisions up to May prior to that has been done under the same parameters. So individuals and businesses moving forward who have misconceptions about what this law is, I respect their rights to protest, but I want to make sure individuals out there and your listeners know that private businesses have the right to have their own bathroom policies, private businesses have the right to have their own nondiscriminatory policies expanded upon our state nondiscriminatory policies that, again, directly mirror federal law, and local governments like the City of Wilmington, they have the freedom to pass expansion above nondiscriminatory policies that we have at the state that, again, directly mirrors federal law. That freedom exists, and it continues to exist beyond HB2. HB2 only rolled back an unconstitutional and illegal ordinance that the Charlotte City Council passed and made clear that local governments, while they can have their own policies upon their own employees, they can’t mandate it non-uniformly onto private business. It has to be done uniformly by way of state government. Those businesses, they’re free to make those decisions, but I hope they make those decisions based on truth and not misconception that has been spun up and repeatedly shared across the nation.

Susan (email): Do the supporters of HB2 realize they’ve made it illegal for a mother to take her 4-year-old son into the women’s restroom?

Representative Chris Millis: HB2 specifically accommodates that situation. It is outlined directly in the statute that a mother can take their child, regardless of the sex of the child, into the bathroom. This is another example of the lies and misconceptions that continue to be spread all across the state and nation. HB2 accommodates for all those situations.

Professor Chadwick Roberts: There are 20 pediatric endocrinologists that called HB2 flawed, harmful, hurtful, and these are North Carolina pediatric endocrinologists that have signed a letter to Pat McCrory saying that this is flawed, harmful, and hurtful to children.

Jane (caller): I’m just very saddened by some of the tautological reasoning of Representative Millis and also the perpetuation of false information about transgender issues throughout the country. I feel that this bill is just another way of having people who really don’t understand what LGBT issues are become divisive and spewing hatred. It is just so sad to me.

Tom (caller): My comment is toward the representative. Sir, I own a business here, and the thing is, I have a core tenant that compassion is in all people, and I know you have that and I’ve heard that listening to you, but this bill does not feel like that, that we don’t show compassion to all human beings no matter who they are, how they represent, how they feel, as long as it’s loving. I feel this bill does not represent us. We are not this. #WeAreNotThis

RLH: Representative Millis, you’re talking about the fact that this is about uniformity and adhering to the state constitution, this is not about discriminating against a group of people, but when people weigh in and say, “This feels like hatred. This feels like institutionalizing bigotry. This feels like discrimination.” What do you say to that?

Representative Chris Millis: I respect their feelings, and I definitely have compassion for all individuals, but those feelings are not rooted in truth about what the legislation did or what the intentions of the legislation were. Again, I respect their feelings, but I would have to disagree. That was not the case. It was definitely rooted in the aspects of respecting the rights of all citizens, including the gender that someone identifies as or expresses themselves as, but we had to step in and intervene to protect the privacy rights of the innocent in regard to this being done in a proper way. At the end of the day, I respect individual’s feelings, but I offer that, I as an individual am compassionate and caring for all citizens, but I also have to represent the innocents that would be affected by the harmful ordinance that the Charlotte City Council passed and I have to stand up for their rights, just as I stand up for the rights of identity of other individuals.

RLH: Matt Hirschy from Equality NC, is this about trying to force evolving and changing newer social norms on a traditional population that just isn’t ready for this?

Matt Hirschy: No, it’s not. As has been said before, two hundred cities and seventeen other states have had these policies for a long, long time, including our neighbors in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Charleston, and Columbia, they’ve all had these policies for a long time, and across the country, other places have had them for decades with no problem whatsoever, so to say this is a new and radical idea is really just not factual. I was just in Orlando at Disney World, and they’ve had this policy for a long time too.  

Tara (caller): While I think the bathroom conversation is definitely important, I don’t understand how we can talk about protecting the rights of all citizens if part of the bill is actually removing the rights of LGBT to go to the state court and talk about being discriminated against. How can we talk about protecting rights in the same bill that we’re, in effect, taking someone’s rights? If you can answer that for me.

RLH: There was an executive order signed by Governor Pat McCrory very recently. Matt Hirschy of Equality NC, how did that executive order change HB2?

Matt Hirschy: That executive order extended employment protections to public employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. And while I appreciate the governor’s action on that, I think that the executive order is a Band-Aid for a brain hemorrhage. At the end of the day, it just doesn’t go far enough. To address the rights of individuals to sue in state court, it doesn’t just affect LGBT people. It also affects people when they take racial discrimination claims or gender discrimination claims through state court. It basically removes the course of action there for folks, and that’s incredibly problematic. Federal discrimination suits, while effective, take a long time, and they are very expensive. The majority of folks who are discriminated against don’t have the opportunities to fulfill those requests. So, that’s a huge problem. The executive order basically directs the General Assembly to change it or to do something about it. It carries no legal weight as it pertains to the legal cause of action piece of this law.

RLH: Representative Millis, you’ve addressed the piece of this legislation that says local governments cannot enact their own antidiscrimination policies. However, this could be something that could be considered in the upcoming short session. Do you think we need to expand antidiscrimination policies, and is that a discussion that you would support?

Representative Chris Millis: First and foremost, in regard to your question, local governments can expand nondiscriminatory policies for their employees. That’s pre-HB2 and post-HB2. The only thing that they cannot do, which is as it’s been always in state law, is that they cannot mandate upon private business this expansion. So again, I just want to make sure we understand that. Local governments can expand nondiscriminatory policies above and beyond what we’ve actually installed for the first time in North Carolina history.

RLH: But they can’t create an ordinance that imposes that on businesses within that municipality?

Representative Chris Millis: That’s right, private businesses have the freedom to decide whether they want to expand those nondiscriminatory policies beyond state law, which again, our state law directly mirrors federal law. That is up to private businesses. Or a bill could be introduced in the General Assembly because in the aspects of commerce, there has to be uniformity as specified by Article II, Section 24 of the state constitution. So there’s two things that has to happen: either a uniform piece of legislation is passed in the General Assembly or someone amends the constitution to allow the city of Charlotte or other cities to have non-uniform practices when it comes to commerce and labor.

RLH: So, if there was a bill that was introduced in the short session expanding antidiscrimination policies for the LGBT community, is that something that you would support? Would you welcome that discussion?

Representative Chris Millis: I most certainly am welcome to have that discussion and more than happy to have that debate whenever that debate actually occurs. But again, just to make sure we understand the question that’s being asked here, in the past, in federal law and in state law, it’s been established that we’re talking about protecting against discrimination on immutable characteristics, what an individual actually is. When you talk about the claim of gender identity and gender expression, my question, to the others and the listeners, how do we more or less just only exclusively protect discrimination for gender identity and gender expression? Why is it not open beyond that? I mean, other individuals may identify as a different age, other individuals may identify as something other than human. I mean, where do we draw the line and how is that done? I’m looking forward to having that debate in the General Assembly if a bill is filed.  

Matt Hirschy: I have so many thoughts. I would like to make sure that we’re clear here when we talk about these things and when we talk about private businesses and not wanting to mandate things on them. Over 3/4ths of the Fortune 500 and many, many small businesses in this state have these protections and support these protections and to think that we are somehow mandating or somehow putting businesses in this really tough situation where they have to serve everybody and they can’t turn away people for who they are, I don’t understand where the pushback is on that point, and I’m interested to hear the representative’s response—once I’m finished. Beyond that, going back to my point, 3/4ths of the Fortune 500 have these protections and they have had them for a long, long time because they know that it’s good for businesses, okay? Businesses look for communities and states where their operations can thrive, and that means communities that the best and brightest talent will be attracted to and communities in which employees will want to live, work, and raise a family. So when we have these laws that are discriminatory or even perceived as discriminatory, that threatens to disrupt our region’s reputation. It’s only natural that businesses are speaking out against this. They want North Carolina to thrive. I want North Carolina to thrive. I’ve lived here for 25 years. I pay taxes in this state. I paid more than last year this year, but I’m happy to do that because I love North Carolina, and I want everyone to get the same opportunities here. To somehow insist that people who are LGBT want special rights or want an inordinant amount of rights over anyone else is preposterous, and I rebuke the claim. I would also say that I’m not asking state government to intervene into people’s private lives. What LGBT rights mean to me is personal liberty and freedom of expression and looking to continue that forward as we move through this debate about people’s lives.

RLH: Representative Millis, when you see corporations like Facebook and Apple, all of these large corporations that have said, “We repudiate that law,” does that not concern you about the economic future of North Carolina?

Representative Chris Millis: Absolutely not. The reason being is because, again, pre-February of 2016 to post-February of 2016, the policy and statute of the state has been the same. Nothing has been changed. Nothing has been passed that’s been discriminatory or I believe rightfully perceived as discriminatory. Private businesses have the freedom to pass their own nondiscriminatory policies, and that’s continued to be protected by way of House Bill 2. All we’re doing is protecting against a mandate that could violate the rights of privacy and the rights of conscience against private business owners. While I respect the individual rights of individuals who may express or identify themselves as something other than maybe what they were born as, I also respect the rights of conscience and privacy rights of the private employees of this state to have the freedom to choose. To be honest with you, if it is as Mr. Hirschy claims, then there should be no problem, because if all of the businesses are doing it, then we should be good. 

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Emailed questions and comments not included on the air:

Chris Sawyer:

Truly the representative has no understanding of LGBT issues.  Comparing this segment of our state to someone who lies about their age or claims they are an alien is just ignorant and sad.

Blair:

I keep hearing about this potential "loss of innocence" and a fear of people disrobing in front of one another as a result of this bill. Indecent exposure is still against the law, isn't it? I'm sincerely unclear why people are concerned now about transgender people exposing themselves to other adults or kids.

Russ:

Why is there no mention of the minimum wage part of the Bill? It seems like an odd provision to be added into a Bill called a bathroom bill.

Roger:

If the law was written purely to protect the privacy of individuals and not to intimidate transgendered people, then the law could have been worded in such a way to put the onus on the predator or prankster, so that; if it can be proven that you do not identify as a transgendered person in your real life, you are culpable and can be prosecuted.. But the law wasn't worded that way, so saying that it was written purely to protect privacy doesn't hold up…

Susan: 

What about this law prevents a male predator from still dressing as a woman and going into a bathroom?

The law does not change the behavior of actual predators and does impact the lives of transgender citizens who simply want to go in a closed-door stall and answer the call of nature in private.

Sarah:

If the law is for safety and privacy why two different standards for private company bathrooms and public bathrooms? 

Rachel:

Was there ever an actual law saying that an individual cannot go into the bathroom that is not their gender? I have taken my female children into the male bathroom when there was a line for the women's room, and no one in the male bathroom. Why was it suddenly so important to address this issue that we needed such a fast bill? Has there been a rash of assaults in bathrooms? 

So many reasons this law is wrong...

Ruth:

Regardless of law, any predator can enter any gendered locker room or bathroom by appearing to be that gender. All I see is bigoted people passing bigoted legislation that can bring harm to innocent transgender people.

Help me understand who is protected and how.

Giles:

North Carolina has such promise, but moves like this are very discouraging. 

When our community/state/nation should be moving to be more loving, more inclusive, and more accepting, I truly wonder what in the world our representatives are actually afraid of. 

It occurs to me that this is a last ditch move - and that NC will move to be exceedingly blue in upcoming elections.

Jim:

The bathroom issue does not seem to be the main point behind HB 2.  How can we let anyone discriminate against anyone in North Carolina?

Michele:

Clearly Millis has never been in a women's locker room. We don't disrobe and parade around naked. That's what happens in the MENS locker room.

Paul:

Like others, I believe that HB2 is not only been bad for our rights as individuals, but bad for business.  There is serious momentum against this bill … now … and I’m hopeful it will get repealed.  But … how do we keep up this momentum into the fall during election season and take this current stirring energy and use it 6 months down the road to get rid of those State Legislators who voted for HB2?  They seem to be the same ones who want to remove local governmental power, hate business incentives which is why we lose so many jobs and companies to South Carolina, and also killed the film incentives.