While I’m a pretty liberal person in my politics and social views, I do consider myself a reasonable person, always looking for ways to find common ground between folks. I believe in trying to find the good in each other, ways we can compromise, understanding and forgiving each other shortcomings, and trying to move forward together. While this is a good policy to live by, it should never be the hill you die on. Sometimes a principled stand is the only true moral choice, consequences be damned. The chaos, fighting, division, and all that comes with it can often overshadow the pain and suffering that those compromises can cause. This is because all too often those compromises are anything but, and are often febrile attempts to pass the buck onto someone else or even to hurt people in a more stealthy manner. The HB2 “compromise” is just that, a hateful backdoor way to discriminate, and an attempt to let North Carolina Democrats wash their hands of the issue for a few years. Unfortunately, this is nothing new in America. In fact, it’s practically a feature of American politics.
Before our Republic was even born, heated debates over representation between the more populous northern states and the sparsely populated and slave-holding South resulted in creating a two-chamber legislature to satisfy both groups. With the House based off of population, yet slaves not counting as citizens, further debate ensued resulting in our first compromise; the Three-Fifths Compromise, reducing slaves to three-fifths of a person. In addition to that, with the contentiousness of the issue of slavery already existing in the 1780s, America’s early politicians decided that wouldn’t even talk about that whole slave thing until they were better organized as a nation. Later, as slavery expanded, compromise after comprise followed on the issue, even writing it into the names of the laws like the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850. Each of these simply were failures on the part of America to face the issue and resolve it for good. Even after the Civil War, we never faced the issue of race, simply declaring Reconstruction was good and moved on, leading to more horrific “compromises,” like Jim Crow and “separate but equal.”
With that as our precedent, we have had other rights slowly eroded under the guise of compromise. Women’s reproductive health, protected by Roe v. Wade, has been whittled away by Republicans who have used tactics that keep the law in place, but make it harder and harder for women, especially poor and women of color to have access to reproductive health and services. All too often, Democrats in these states have said that the bills that were amended to be less draconian were “good compromises” that satisfied all the concerned parties, which is far from true. Often these compromises are exactly what Republicans wanted anyway, and only introduced the far more draconian law in order to be seen as a reasonable group, acting in good faith. So while the “spirit” of Roe v. Wade remains in place, ever more intrusive, cruel, and discriminatory laws are passed as Republicans give lip service to the right to an abortion as a “compromise.”
That’s what’s so repugnant about the HB 2 “compromise.” Firstly, it’s anything but the sort. It’s the same bill written in a far more creative way that removes any specific mention of transgender people as the targeted group. As a result, the wording of the law ends up potentially being discriminatory against everybody. No city in North Carolina can now pass any law that protects or improves access for any group, be them female, gay, elderly, young, handicapped, an ethnic minority; frankly, any group at all. Additionally, the bill puts a moratorium on even amending the bill until 2020, which gives Republicans in the state a few more years to come up with another way to block LGBT rights — no longer just transgender rights — in their state.
The final twist of the knife on this compromise is that North Carolina Democrats, including Governor Roy Cooper, have patted themselves on the back for their ability to find a satisfactory compromise so they can sleep at night — and finally get those corporate tax dollars. Even the NCAA, that bastion of moral righteousness, caved just so they could have some sports tournaments there, which apparently was the biggest factor in all this, not basic human rights. So now, they have their compromise and they can feel like they accomplished something, when even a political neophyte could see that it was a complete cave on their part.
Compromising on things should always be a mutually agreed upon result where neither side is perfectly happy, but can be content with the results. Sometimes this means you don’t get exactly what you want, but no one is any worse off than they were before. Sometimes compromising is just a word we use to make ourselves feel better for not having the moral fortitude and courage to stand up for what we believe in, and sometimes it’s an outright lie. Last week, North Carolina Democrats didn’t secure defeat for HB 2, they didn’t even weaken it, they outright caved on the issue and then lied to us about what the result was. Sure, you could argue it was a compromise, but it was a deal to give them a clean conscience at the expense of the LGBT community, while actually making our lives worse. Great political skills and such a courageous performance on their part — no wonder people have no faith in them.
AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @EternalKerri.