SERFA and NC House Bill 142
Passed by the SERFA Board of Directors, April 15, 2017
At the 2016 SERFA Conference, the board presented a statement opposing the odious NC HB2, an ill-considered act that attacks not just LGBTQ citizens, but democracy, home rule, and business interests. After Democrat Roy Cooper was elected as governor, apparently due to the incumbent Republican’s support of HB2, a compromise agreement was reached among Cooper and the GOP legislative leadership to repeal the act fully. Leadership called a special session to do so. A bipartisan majority in both houses existed to approve the repeal. Facing, however, resistance from the Christian right, the GOP leadership did not bring the repeal measure to the floor.
In March 2017, due to pressure from the business community hurt by HB2 and the NCAA, which pulled 2017 events from the state and threatened to continue to do so in the future, the Republican dominated legislature passed HB142, which purported to repeal HB2. Supporters of civil rights for all citizens immediately pointed out that HB142 was a repeal in name only. Even if a tad overstated, a strong case exists for that position, and as House Democrat and civil rights advocate Graig Meyer's anguished Facebook video (with over 8200 viewers) explained when he voted no, it is a complicated matter:
- HB142 does make HB2 null and void on the positive side. This means that persons may once again bring civil actions in a North Carolina court for claims of discrimination in employment or public accommodations on account of race, religion, color, national origin, age, or biological sex.
- The repeal returns Charlotte’s policies to where they were before its ordinance passed, but prevents the city from passing a similar bathroom use ordinance in the future.
- The bill says state and local governments are “preempted from regulation of access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities, except in accordance with an act of the General Assembly.”
- HB142 also imposed a moratorium on local governments' regulating public accommodations or private employment practices before Dec. 1, 2020, disallowing them, among other things, from protecting minorities from job discrimination.
The SERFA board strongly supports civil rights for all citizens and believes that those in groups likely to experience discrimination must receive unambiguous protection. As such, it cannot support HB142 as an adequate repeal of HB2. The SERFA board reaffirms its support for protecting and advancing the constitutional rights and equitable treatment of all residents and its opposition to discrimination, prejudice, homophobia, and transphobia.
It is understandable that for many folk music community members the initial reaction would be to move the SERFA conference to another state. The NAACP, for example, has maintained its boycott. The NCAA, on the other hand, has removed theirs but without enthusiasm. Like HB142 itself, the situation is not clear cut, however:
- An important factor to bear in mind is that the gerrymandering imposed by the 2010 legislature when the Republicans gained a majority has nearly robbed North Carolina citizens of the right to vote in legislative elections. Were the seats in the House and Senate distributed according to the aggregate statewide vote totals, Republicans would have a razor thin majority in each house, allowing Democrats to serve as an effective opposition party. Polls universally show that a substantial majority of North Carolinians have opposed HB2 from the get go. Small wonder that North Carolina is rated no more electorally democratic than Iran.
- The economic impact of the SERFA Conference is felt entirely within Buncombe County, one the state’s most liberal counties. It was one of just five NC counties that voted for marriage equality in 2012. Moving the conference would hurt our friends without impacting the legislature in any way.
- Holding the conference in North Carolina allows us to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community and the embattled political left in the state, as well as providing a platform for us to raise our voices in song to oppose attacks on civil rights. We can be a beacon of light in the darkness.
The SERFA board calls upon folk music organizations, events, and individuals to join SERFA in opposing one of the most discriminatory laws in North America. The board will continue to take this situation very seriously and may change its position in the future, based on what it reckons to be the most effective and moral course of action.