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North Carolina Lawmakers Override Governor's Veto of 3 Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills

North Carolina Lawmakers Override Governor's Veto of 3 Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills

North Carolina capitol
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The bills, restricting trans health care, trans sports participation, and LGBTQ+ content in schools, now become law immediately.

North Carolina legislators, both in the state House and Senate, Wednesday overrode Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of three anti-LGBTQ+ bills.

One limits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, similar to Florida’s infamous “don’t say gay” law. Another bans gender-affirming medical procedures for transgender minors. The third bars trans girls from playing on female sports teams in public schools and certain private ones, from middle school through college.

All of the measures now become law and take effect immediately, although trans minors already receiving gender-affirming care as of August 1 can continue on it if they have parental consent and their doctors say it is medically necessary.

The medical care bill “may be the most heartbreaking bill in a truly heartbreaking session,” said Sen. Lisa Grafstein, the Associated Press reports. Grafstein, a lesbian, is the only out member of the LGBTQ+ community in the North Carolina Senate. She is a Democrat, and both the House and Senate have Republican supermajorities.

During debate over the vetoes, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a Republican well known for anti-LGBTQ+ stances, was presiding over the session and cut Grafstein short so another legislator could speak, the AP reports. Some LGBTQ+ activists in attendance then yelled at him and were escorted out by police.

The schools bill, characterized as a “parents’ bill of rights,” like Florida’s, bans “instruction on gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality” in kindergarten through fourth grade. Florida’s originally imposed a ban on these subjects in kindergarten through third grade, but now it has been expanded to do so through high school. The North Carolina legislation also says that if students want to be called by names or pronouns different from what’s in school records, in most cases teachers and staff have to notify their parents — essentially outing them.

The sports legislation covers public and charter schools, private schools that compete against them, and public and private colleges and universities in the state.

North Carolina is the 22nd state to ban gender-affirming care for trans minors, the 23rd with a trans-exclusionary sports law, and the 11th with a curriculum censorship law.

Legislators Wednesday also overrode Cooper’s veto of three other bills, some of which ease regulations on charter schools and construction.

Cooper issued a statement condemning the override votes. “The legislature finally comes back to pass legislation that discriminates, makes housing less safe, blocks [Federal Emergency Management Agency] disaster recovery funding, hurts the freedom to vote and damages our economy,” he said. “Yet they still won’t pass a budget when teachers, school bus drivers and Medicaid Expansion for thousands of working people getting kicked off their health plans every week are desperately needed. These are the wrong priorities, especially when they should be working nights and weekends if necessary to get a budget passed by the end of the month.”

Cooper is not eligible to run for reelection this year due to term limits. Robinson is the Republican front-runner in the governor’s race, and the likely Democratic nominee is Josh Stein, an LGBTQ+ ally is currently state attorney general. North Carolina elects its governor and lieutenant governor separately, which partly explains how two people as different as Cooper and Robinson could serve in the same administration. Cooper has overseen progress for LGBTQ+ people in the state, including repeal of House Bill 2, the notorious anti-trans “bathroom bill,” which also barred municipalities from enacting LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws.

But now North Carolina is going backward, LGBTQ+ activists say. The override of Cooper’s vetoes marks the first time anti-LGBTQ+ laws have been passed in the state since HB 2 in 2016 and the partial repeal of it in 2017 (it is now fully repealed).

“Every lawmaker in North Carolina that voted to override the governor’s veto should be ashamed of themselves,” said a statement from Cathryn Oakley, senior director for legal policy at the Human Rights Campaign. “These bills range in impact from curriculum censorship to school sports to banning best-practice health care, but they have one important throughline: extremist legislators are trying to gain political power by harming vulnerable young people and their families. Once again, the North Carolina General Assembly has prioritized anti-transgender discrimination over the well-being of North Carolina. Governor Cooper did the right thing by vetoing these hateful bills designed to rile up hate against LGBTQ+ people, but legislators are sending a clear message that North Carolina is not a safe place for us. We will not stop fighting these discriminatory measures.”

Equality North Carolina issued a press release calling the legislature’s actions “contemptible” and saying it “passed these bills in the face of vociferous and highly motivated opposition.” The measures are “hateful copy-paste legislation from national hate groups,” Equality NC continued, adding, “This is a dark day for North Carolina.” It has partnered with the Campaign for Southern Equality to help trans youth and their families go out of state to seek care.

The anti-trans bills “will have devastating effects on trans youth who are already facing multiple barriers,” said a statement from Liz Barber, director of policy and advocacy at the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. “This is a coordinated attack on fundamental freedoms that affect us all: inclusion, bodily autonomy, and our right to privacy. Transgender young people deserve to make choices about their own bodies, discuss their identities at school without fear of outing, and participate in sports teams that align with their gender identity. It is shameful that the General Assembly has continued to push this discriminatory agenda. We will continue to advocate for trans youth and protect the freedoms of all North Carolinians.”

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