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N.C. Democrat 'Haunted' By Support for Anti-LGBT Law Now Urges Repeal

North Carolina Rep. Billy Richardson

North Carolina state Rep. Billy Richardson apologized Monday for his vote on House Bill 2, and called for the anti-LGBT law to be repealed.

Richardson was one of 11 Democrats in the state House of Representatives to support the bill’s passage during a one-day special session. HB 2 was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory on March 23.

The legislation struck down LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination ordinances in cities and counties statewide, and prohibits cities from adopting any new ones. It also expressly requires transgender people to use public bathrooms and locker rooms that do not match their gender identity.

In an op-ed published Monday in the Fayetteville Observer, Richardson said he now regrets backing HB 2. In the article, Richardson referenced the special legislative session that was hastily called to sign the bill into law. The bill was rushed through and introduced, passed, and enacted in less than 24 hours. Less than 10 hours after it was introduced, the bill unanimously passed the Republican-controlled Senate, in a vote of 32-0, because every Democratic senator walked out of the chamber in protest. Then McCrory signed it into law that night.

"Since our hasty vote on HB2, I have been haunted by the fact that in one rushed action, I undermined a lifetime of fighting against those who would demonize a group of citizens to gain political advantage and to advance an unjust agenda," wrote Richardson. "HB 2 gives green light to this discrimination in housing, employment, and other areas. To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, we must never make any group of citizens a stranger to the laws of their own state." 

Richardson, who represents North Carolina’s 44th District and was voted into the state legislature last year, urged others to fight for the bill’s repeal.  "I call on my fellow legislators, the speaker, the president pro tem and the governor to repeal this hurtful, overreaching, and unnecessary law," he wrote. 

He admitted that he made a mistake by voting for HB 2. "You can't fix a wrong until you acknowledge a mistake," Richardson wrote. "I was wrong and I will stand with all North Carolinians who dream of fulfilling the words of the official toast for our Old North State, ‘where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.'" 

On the same day that Richardson’s op-ed was published, protesters gathered at Raleigh’s capitol building in support of Gov. McCrory and the state's anti-LGBT legislation. According to the Charlotte News & Observer, the crowd numbered around 700 in total, the biggest pro-HB 2 rally yet. Protesters held signs like ‘‘No Men in Women’s Bathrooms,’’ “Stand Strong, We Support You and HB 2,” and “Keep Kids Safe.”

June House, who runs a fitness center in Fayetteville, N.C., attended the rally to support the bill. House told the Associated Press that she believes allowing trans people to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity poses a danger to other people. ‘‘When I come out of the shower, it’s a semi-nude situation. I think modesty and safety are not what they should be if cross-dressers are in there,’’ she said.

In reality, while more than 200 localities nationwide have trans-inclusive laws on the books, there has never been a single verified report of a transgender person assaulting a cisgender (nontrans) person in a restroom, nor have there been any instances of someone “pretending” to be transgender to gain access to sex-segregated spaces for nefarious purposes. By contrast, however, transgender people face a much higher risk of being the victims of physical and verbal assault in sex-segregated spaces, compared to their cisgender peers. 

As ABC News reports, nearly 100 people counterprotested the demonstration with signs condemning the bill, which included “Y’all Means All,” “We Are Not This,” and ‘‘Bigotry is Bad for Business.’’ Since HB 2 was signed into law, numerous companies—including Apple, Microsoft, and PayPal—have urged for a boycott of the state. Earlier this week, Bruce Springsteen cancelled his show in North Carolina in protest of HB 2.

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