Despite outcry over his state’s anti-LGBT law from the business community and performers who cancelled events in the state, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest championed the measure Friday in a speech to social conservatives.
Forest, who called the special session in March when lawmakers passed House Bill 2 over the course of a single day, made the law the focus on his remarks at the Values Voter Summit, an annual event hosted by the anti-LGBT Family Research Council.
“The color of a person’s skin has absolutely nothing to do with what bathroom they use,” Forest said. “The color of a person’s skin has absolutely nothing to do with where they sit on a bus or where they sit at the lunch counter, or what water fountain they drink out of it. But you know what? A person’s biology has everything to with which bathroom they use.”
The anti-LGBT law nullified pro-LGBT non-discrimination ordinances in North Carolina, including one recently enacted in Charlotte, and prohibits transgender people from using the bathrooms in schools and government buildings consistent with their gender identity, but Forest blamed the progressive movement for interfering with bathroom use.
“Pretty unthinkable in this day and age what’s going in the world today that many people on the progressive left think that bathroom policy is the issue of the day,” Forest said.
Forest, who was well-received by the Values Voter Summit audience, received significant applause when he called HB2 “common sense in America.” The law, Forest said, provides “reasonable accommodations” for individuals “who fear for their safety” by transgender people from using restrooms in accordance with their gender identity.
Throughout his remarks, Forest generally criticized the advancement of LGBT rights, saying decades ago things like same-sex marriage and transgender rights were “unthinkable” as well as business opposition to anti-LGBT policy.
“Major corporations, major sports teams, the NBA standing against those who are standing up for such things?” Forest said. “That was unimaginable 30 years ago.”
Forest said HB2 was passed as a result of the Charlotte ordinance, saying the public accommodations component would have eliminated bathrooms segregated by gender — an assertion he made earlier that Politifact has determined is false.
“The city of Charlotte struck through that and said that’s not OK, you can’t have men, woman, male, female, boy, girl on bathroom shower and locker room doors any more,” Forest said.
Forest said the public accommodations of the ordinance was “unconstitutional” because in North Carolina the state has authority to make policy, not cities.
“The city of Charlotte had no authority whatsoever over public accommodations,” Forest said. “That comes from the state, so it was against the law. They were told by the court, by our lawyers, by the legislature, by the governor don’t do it, don’t do it because we have to protect the law in North Carolina. They didn’t go through the normal process, they didn’t come to the legislature and say, ‘guess what we have this problem in Charlotte and we want you to help fix it.'”
Responding the National Basketball Association’s decision to pull the All-Star Games out of North Carolina, Forest said “they had a right to do that.” Although PayPal cancelled as a result of the law a business expansion that would have produced an estimated 400 jobs in North Carolina, Forest sought to minimize that action by saying the company still does business in the state.
“They didn’t pull out,” Forest said. “They didn’t pull out from 28 other states that have similar laws to us. They still do business with the federal government. They have similar laws. They still do business in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, who not only persecute the LGBT community, they executive the LGBT community.”
Although many states lack non-discrimination protections based on transgender status and no federal law explicitly bans discrimination on gender identity, North Carolina is the only state with a law dictating that transgender people are barred from certain restrooms they think are right for them.
Seeking to stoke fears about the ordinance, Forest said a major proponent of the measure was a registered sex offender, although he sought to temper his remarks by saying the notion transgender people are sexual predators is “just not the case at all.” Chad Sevearance-Turner, former president of Charlotte’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce, resigned after those revelations came to light amid efforts to pass the ordinance.
The Charlotte ordinance, Forest said, was enacted as a result of a “political” agenda, noting North Carolina is a swing state in the presidential election. Blasting the Human Rights Campaign, Forest said the organization pressured the business community to impose a “sexual revolution, social engineering experiment.”
Forest also blasted the Obama administration for filing a lawsuit against HB2 and threatening to pull federal funding from the state under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which he called “complete extortion.” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s comparison of HB2 to Jim Crow laws, Forest said, was “shameful.”
Christopher Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, said Forest misrepresented the facts about HB2 and the anti-LGBT discrimination it has enabled.
“Dan Forest has time and time again proven himself to be out of touch with real North Carolina values, which is why I doubt the good people of this state will reelect him,” Sgro said. “The Charlotte ordinance protecting gay and transgender people against discrimination was, in fact, a common-sense best practice already in place in hundreds of other cities across the nation. Forest will go down in the history books as someone who stood against equality, and time will not be kind to his legacy.”
On Forest’s assertion Charlotte lacked authority to pass an ordinance regarding public accommodations, Sgro said, “Charlotte city attorneys and leaders well researched this ordinance and absolutely had authority to pass it. The LG is mistaken.”
JoDee Winterhof, vice president for policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, said Forest offers the same discredited views on the anti-LGBT law as Gov. Pat McCrory.
“Gov. McCrory and his allies would rather blame anyone but themselves for their obsession with a problem that doesn’t exist instead of dealing with the real and urgent challenges facing North Carolina,” Winterhof said. “Countless business leaders have spoken out to say that discrimination has no place in North Carolina and asked that HB2 be repealed. Everybody knows the real goal of HB2 was to target LGBTQ people for discrimination, which is one reason why Pat McCrory and Dan Forest are being rejected by voters in North Carolina.”