RALEIGH – After a week of intense news coverage, advocacy and constituent conversations, an anti-bullying bill inclusive of protections for LGBT students has died.
The House and Senate adjourned Friday, July 18. Before doing so, Senate leaders sent the School Violence Prevention Act (HB 1366) to committee, a late-breaking move that effectively nixed any chance of a floor vote. Upon hearing the news, House leaders put off voting on the bill as well.
Despite widespread public support for the bill (see related story), legislative members were swayed by powerful special interests with the radical right. Groups like the Christian Action League of North Carolina and the N.C. Family Policy Council said the bill was a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and that it would “legitimize same-sex behaviors.” (see related story)
Even as close as two days before the end of the session advocates said they had almost enough votes to pass the legislation. On July 16, EqualityNC Executive Director Ian Palmquist told Q-Notes, “We’re close. I think we’ll really have a chance of getting it through the Senate. We’re working.”
Ironically, it wasn’t the lack of votes that defeated the bill, but rather the absence of allied senators.
“In the end, we had the votes for passage in both chambers if everyone was there, but absences in the Senate hurt our numbers,” Palmquist said in an email update to EqualityNC supporters. “Neither chamber took up the bill, knowing they lacked the votes for passage in the Senate.”
The Senate allows absent members to “pair” with present members who will vote the opposite way. The move effectively cancels out each vote.
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-Guilford), the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate and a friendly member on the anti-bullying bill, was absent from the legislature most of the week. She was able to pair with another senator so her absence would not effect the outcome of the vote.
The legislation will have to be re-introduced during next year’s long session.
Despite the anti-bullying loss, EqualityNC said numerous positives came from the fight for the bill, including winning over a majority of legislators, fighting off numerous attempts to gut the bill of its LGBT protections, finding new champions and unexpected allies and building a powerful coalition of more than 20 organizations that supported the bill.
EqualityNC was pleased to have achieved several other big victories, as well. Among the most rewarding was the continued defeat of the anti-LGBT, anti-family marriage amendment. This year’s lack of action on the amendment marks the fourth year North Carolina has refused to hear an amendment many say will enshrine discrimination into the constitution.
The group was also key in helping to increase the eligibility level for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) to the national standard.