The Campaign for Southern Equality held an emergency town hall on August 21 to discuss three new anti-LGBTQ+ laws now on the books in North Carolina — HB 808, HB 574 and SB 49. The meeting came about after the North Carolina General Assembly passed these laws on August 9, adding to the slew of policies targeting trans and queer identifying youth across the United States. 

“Last week, we saw the NCGA ran through a set of laws that we know are flatly unconstitutional,” Allison Scott of the CSE said. “We know that folks have questions about what these laws mean, how they can take action to protect themselves and their families.”

The town hall was designed to help educate families on what these policies mean and how they will impact their lives. One of the bills with the largest spotlight was HB 808, which prohibits the initiation of any gender-affirming care in North Carolina for people under the age of 18, including puberty blockers, gender-affirming hormone therapy, and surgery.

However, this policy doesn’t prevent people who’ve already started receiving gender-affirming care from continuing their treatment, according to representatives with CSE. Emma Chen with CSE said trans youth and their parents should ask their healthcare providers how they’re interpreting the language of these bills. 

“We’ve gone over sort of what the law says, but … it doesn’t prohibit anyone from leaving North Carolina to access care in a state where it is legal to do that, and a court would likely agree that it’s unconstitutional to block people from traveling to other states to get care,” Chen said in the town hall. “

Carolyn Jones with the CSE added there are grants and financial aid options for families who will need to travel out of state to ensure their loved ones receive the care they need, which includes $500 emergency grants, frontline grants for organizations helping these families and more. 

“We’ve mapped providers of gender affirming care nationwide, and we can help you identify care, including telehealth options as close to you as possible,” she said. “There will be options for your child, and we’re here to help you figure out what those options are.”

Attorney Chris Brook from Patterson Harkavy LLP in Chapel Hill came in to talk about the legal ramifications of the passage of HB 808 and other anti-LGBTQ+ bills. He said there have been many legal challenges to similar legislation in other states, many of which have resulted in the laws being ruled unconstitutional. 

“Seven federal judges in Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee have ruled that similar measures are unconstitutional, as well as the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld a preliminary injunction on blocking Arkansas’s law,” Brook explained. “What courts have said when they have struck down or put these sorts of bills on hold, is that they constitute sex discrimination, and they need to have an exceedingly persuasive justification … there’s simply no strong basis in medical ethics, or in regulating medical care that would permit these sorts of laws to be upheld, and that’s why they’ve been put on hold in a number of these instances.”

At the end of the town hall, Scott reemphasized to families there are legal options organizations like CSE are going to pursue. However, those will take time, and one of the most important things to do is remain informed and be prepared to stand up against unconstitutional policies. 

“We just want to reiterate right now that we know this is a very, very challenging time for everyone,” Scott said. “One of the things we battle when these laws come out is misinformation. We can bring to the table these town halls and all of our partner groups, because we know the people here in North Carolina and the groups you’ve heard from tonight, they’re the ones getting things done.”

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