Anti-transgender law backfires on North Carolina Republicans


HB2, the “bathroom bill” targeted at transgender people, may cost North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory his job.

By Daniel Dale
Sat., Oct. 8, 2016

WINTERVILLE, N.C.—Bill Hopseker is a Republican-leaning military veteran who describes himself as “the average American working person.” He thinks America is heading in the wrong direction. Outside a Sam’s Club store in a small North Carolina town on Wednesday, he said he’ll be voting for Donald Trump.

And that he will not even think about voting for the Republican governor.

“Doing something like this,” he said, “really tarnishes a person.”

What Pat McCrory did is sign and defend a law banning transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice.

“I wouldn’t vote for anybody that does something like that. The logic, I just can’t figure it out at all. Why you would even care?” said Hopseker, 56. “Just because they were born that way – I don’t know. It’s not comprehensible for me. It’s just too stupid.”

The law, widely known as HB2 (for House Bill 2), is straight out of a long-successful Republican electoral playbook: pick a fight about LGBT people, rile up social conservatives, ride the fury turnout to victory.

This time, it is not working.

The backlash to HB2 has been so fierce that it might cost the governor his job. McCrory is down by an average of four points to Democratic attorney general Roy Cooper, and analysts say HB2 is one of the biggest reasons why.

November 8 could well be the first and last time someone loses a major U.S. election over a matter of transgender rights.

“Karma,” Skye Thomson, a 15-year-old transgender boy in the small town of Winterville, said with a slight smile.

The response to HB2 reflects not only the rapid shift in American attitudes about LGBT rights but changes in the makeup of North Carolina itself. And it demonstrates, again, the power that corporations can wield in civil rights battles.

The state has one of the country’s most aggressively conservative legislatures. But its HB2-fuelled reputation as a bigoted backwater has never been less accurate.

“I, at least in my heart of hearts, like to believe that North Carolina isn’t exactly full of a bunch of bigoted jerks,” Thomson said. “And it looks like it’s not.”

The population has grown more liberal and less white over the last decade as young and educated workers have flocked to its urban areas, particularly Charlotte and the booming Research Triangle around Raleigh and Durham.

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