Five years later, Democratic lawmakers fighting to promote LGBT rights

Last week, Democrats in the North Carolina General Assembly introduced four bills that would protect LGBTQ North Carolinians from discrimination, violence, and harassment.

The ground-breaking package of LGBTQ-inclusive bills, called the Equality for All Act, establishes statewide nondiscrimination protections, bans on “conversion therapy” and the “gay/trans panic” defense, and more.

From WRAL:

“These four bills won’t fix all of the problems and obstacles that our communities face, but they are a start,” Kendra Johnson, executive director of advocacy group Equality North Carolina, said during a news conference.

“It affirms what we already know, that no one should live in fear of discrimination and that everyone in North Carolina deserves basic human rights,” said Rep. Vernetta Alston, D-Durham. “This legislation will move North Carolina forward and help us build a state where LGBTQ people are respected and protected, no matter where they live.”

A second set of companion bills form the “Mental Health Protection Act,” which would prohibit conversion therapy, or the practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation.

“We know that conversion therapy causes a lifetime of harm and often results in teen suicide,” Said Sen.Natasha Marcus, D-Mecklenburg. House Bill 449 would ban the so-called “gay or trans panic defense,” which people have used to justify violent acts following unwanted same-sex sexual advances.

“The gay/trans panic defense is an abhorrent legal loophole that allows folks to attack, harm and even murder someone based on their own personal homophobia or transphobia,” said Rep. John Autry, D-Mecklenburg.

This comes as county commissioners across North Carolina have passed LGBTQ-inclusive ordinances and non-discrimination ordinances that prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and a person’s hair texture or hairstyle.

The measures included in the Equality for All Act takes steps in erasing the state’s notorious House Bill 2 or HB2, a discriminatory bill that targeted the state’s trans and gender-nonconforming communities.

“For too long, LGBTQ North Carolinians have lived under the shadow of archaic and outdated laws that impact everyone in our community, but most directly those of us that live at the intersections of multiple lenses of oppression,” stated Kendra Johnson, executive director of advocacy group Equality North Carolina.

Five years since the passage of HB2, North Carolina is making steps toward expanding protections for the most vulnerable members of our communities.

Through these LGBTQ-inclusive bills, our state would close the gaps in federal nondiscrimination protections and ensure no one faces discrimination because of who they are.

Bottom Line: The passage of LGBT protections on both the state and federal level are vital in ensuring that everyone in our state is protected and that LGBTQ North Carolinians have the right to dignity, equality, and fairness.

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Alanna Joyner

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