On Tuesday, Dec. 1, a key prong of House Bill 142 (HB142) reached sunset, ending a years-long moratorium that blocked cities and towns in our state from protecting their LGBTQ residents through local non-discrimination ordinances.

For those who don’t know, HB142 passed in 2017 and replaced sections of HB2, the infamous anti-transgender bill passed by the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) in 2016. HB142 reaffirmed many of the anti-LGBTQ elements of HB2, including blocking local cities and towns in North Carolina from protecting their residents with LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances.

LGBTQ folks across North Carolina who lived here in 2016 and 2017 undoubtedly remember House Bills 2 (HB2) and 142 all too well. Many people tend to focus on the economic impact of the fallout: companies pulled their businesses from our state. Sports teams refused to hold high-profile tournaments. Some estimates bring the gross economic toll to over $3 billion in lost revenue for the state of North Carolina.

But for most LGBTQ North Carolinians, the economic toll comes second to the trauma faced by our transgender and gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings. The state they loved suddenly became thought of as one of the worst places to be LGBTQ on an international scale. The news about HB2 traveled far beyond the borders of the United States.

But even worse, the heightened discourse surrounding this bill had placed a proverbial target on the backs of any visibly queer or transgender person in the state of North Carolina.

Years later, the pain still lingers. But we have an opportunity to begin chipping away at the horrific legacy that HB2 and HB142 have left in their wake.

Mayors, city council members, and county commissioners in North Carolina are finally able to adopt local non-discrimination ordinances to protect their LGBTQ residents. Supporters of LGBTQ equality should now begin contacting their local elected officials and encouraging them to pass protections on the municipal level. Moving forward, we also need the NCGA to fully repeal the remaining parts of HB142 and we need the U.S. Congress and the NCGA to enact comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for all LGBTQ people through state and federal laws.

It’s time for us to move forward, both as a community and as North Carolinians, and help build a more compassionate future for those who call this place home.

To help with the process of contacting your elected officials, Equality North Carolina (ENC) and the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) have launched a digital campaign called NC is Ready for LGBTQ Protections, a platform through which North Carolinians can easily contact their elected leaders and voice their support for non-discrimination. It’s broken down by individual cities and streamlines the process for you in only a matter of minutes.

It’s imperative that we all voice our support for non-discrimination protections and ensure that our elected leaders are keeping the LGBTQ community front-of-mind as we head into 2021.

On a final note, it’s important for all of us to remember that HB142 is not completely dead — only one prong of the bill regarding non-discrimination sunset on Dec. 1. The first prong of HB142, unfortunately, continues to prevent local governments and other political entities from regulating multiple occupancy restrooms, even after Dec. 1. To address this, HB142 needs to be fully repealed by the NCGA or found unconstitutional by the courts. ENC and CSE are calling for the full repeal of HB142 as soon as possible.

We know it’s been a terrible year, to say the least, but it’s our hope that you’ll view this next chapter of LGBTQ life in North Carolina with a bit of optimism. If we work together, we have the opportunity to ensure that LGBTQ folks from all walks of life are protected in their homes, jobs, places of worship and in public. No one deserves to feel unsafe for simply being who they are or loving whom they love. We hope you’ll join us in this fight at ncisready.org.

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