by Matthew Morrell Hill Comer †
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory sure knows how to get himself and his staff in hot water. His administration has been plagued with controversy, missteps, investigations, questions, doubts, mismanagement and more. The one bargaining chip and leverage our intentionally weakened governor has is his veto and he can’t even use that due to a veto-proof, Tea Party-led Republican majority in the legislature.
Yet, there’s one more area in which McCrory does have some control — his executive offices and state agencies. Like the U.S. president, North Carolina’s governor can issue executive orders binding for those employees and agencies under the governor’s authority. McCrory, a Republican, exercised exactly that power on June 30, signing a new equal employment executive order protecting state workers on the basis of “race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, disability and genetic information.”
Notably absent from the list was sexual orientation and gender identity, and when questioned about this absence both McCrory and staffers attempted to shoo away concern.
“It does mirror federal regulation. It does mirror state law. And it does mirror the previous governors who have signed similar orders, including Gov. Perdue, Gov. Easley and Gov. Martin before me,” McCrory told Raleigh news station WRAL.
Firstly, McCrory’s official line has been incorrect. Federal employees are protected on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, under executive orders and rulings from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
But, most important is the seeming flippancy and disregard McCrory and his office seemed to have for LGBT North Carolinians who have chosen to work for the state and her people. Ignoring their existence and refusing to offer much-needed employment protections must surely be a political move, for there are no legitimate reasons not to extend the protections.
By ignoring LGBT workers, McCrory missed his one, perfect opportunity to bring himself, his office and his state some good news for change — just one week after the second-highest ranking House Republican caused controversy with comments comparing homosexuality to pedophilia.
McCrory could have moved his state forward — bringing it in line with our neighbor Virginia, which does protect its LGBT state workers. McCrory could have moved his party forward — putting the Republican brand on a truly inclusive move, one with which even some conservatives agree. North Carolina has no business discriminating against those citizens who voluntarily agree to work in service to her.
Instead, McCrory’s ill-advised decisions resulted in nothing but more negative press for his state and his party.
McCrory would be wise to hire new advisors — trusted sources, including even LGBT people, who can help him right his horribly off-course administration. : :
† Editor Matt Comer has dedicated his byline this issue in memory of his grandfather, Wilson Morrell Comer of Carroll County, Va., and Winston-Salem, N.C. (March 19, 1928-July 9, 2014).