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Overturning North Carolina's controversial anti-LGBT law known as House Bill 2 provided a central rallying cry at Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine's Tuesday campaign stop in Greensboro.
After drawing a comparison between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, the Democratic senator from Virginia turned his attention to the sweeping anti-LGBT law. HB 2, which rescinds existing local nondiscrimination ordinances that protected LGBT people and requires transgender people to use public bathrooms and locker rooms, in government buildings, that do not correspond with their gender identity, was passed in a single day-long special session March 23, and signed into law late that evening by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.
Kaine opened his discussion of LGBT rights by mentioning the historic July speech given by Human Rights Campaign press secretary Sarah McBride, the first out transgender person to address a national political convention. He called the battle for LGBT equality one of the most powerful struggles of our time, framing anti-LGBT opposition as "just one more wall that we have to knock down" on the way to "a more perfect union."
"Now, I know that in North Carolina, there's been some pain over this issue," said Kaine, over the audible booing of the energetic crowd. "They snuck through in the legislature HB 2, and they tried to introduce it kind of in the dead of night ... and maybe people won't notice, and maybe people won't complain, but you all have stood up in a major way."
Amid chants of "forward, not backward," Kaine compared the economic and political backlash to HB 2 to Indiana's so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Republican vice-presidential nominee and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law in 2015. Pence, facing intense public pressure from critics who said the law amounted to a "license to discriminate" against LGBT people, amended it shortly thereafter
Kaine chastised the proudly right-wing Indiana governor for previously claiming that LGBT people "would bring about a societal collapse." He drew parallels between Pence's unapologetic anti-LGBT attitudes and the similar arguments advanced by North Carolina Gov. McCrory, who has steadfastly defended his state's anti-LGBT law as "common sense."
"That's just not right, folks," Kaine said of the anti-LGBT attitudes of elected officials. "That's just not right."
Before Kaine took the stage Tuesday, North Carolina's attorney general addressed the crowd, making his case for why he wants to replace McCrory in the governor's mansion. Roy Cooper, who has refused to defend HB 2 in court as the state's attorney general, is the Democratic candidate for governor in North Carolina.
"Our economy has suffered because of House Bill 2," said Cooper. "That is what can happen when you elect leaders who put their political careers ahead of the people they serve."
"House Bill 2 must be repealed," Cooper continued, to enthusiastic applause. "But unfortunately, House Bill 2 is just a preview of what we would get with a Trump-McCrory agenda, and we are not going to let that happen."
Each speaker at the 90-minute rally stressed the importance of voting in November's general election, harkening back to President Obama's pointed response to Democratic National Convention attendees who booed his mention of Donald Trump.
"Don't boo," the president commanded during his fiery convention speech. "Vote."
That was the overarching message at Tuesday's rally in Greensboro as well.
"This may be one of the most important elections in our lifetimes, folks," Cooper said. "And guess what: North Carolina is ground zero."
During his address, Kaine applauded the July federal court decision that blocked a restrictive North Carolina voting law that was intended to make it harder for African-Americans to vote in the state.
"Participation is the name of the game," Kaine said, noting that he was a civil rights lawyer for 17 years, and had "worked on some voting rights cases." Kaine also addressed any cynics in the room who might say that a single vote doesn't make a difference in the grand scheme of the political process.
"If your vote doesn't matter, why is the other side working so hard to keep you from being able to vote?" Kaine asked rhetorically.
Watch Tuesday's rally in full below, with Cooper's remarks beginning at 7:15, and Kaine's speech beginning at the 27:30 mark.