Almost 24 years ago, leaders of the North Carolina Council of Churches approved a policy statement opposing discrimination against beloved children of God based on their sexuality. Progress has been made and crucial rights have been extended over the last two decades, but Wednesday, a majority of the NC General Assembly reminded us we still have much work to do with their passage of the artfully named and rushed-through-the-legislative-process “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.”
To be clear, the legislation, signed by Governor Pat McCrory on Wednesday night, extends beyond public restrooms in Charlotte and prevents localities from establishing their own laws to protect residents from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Language used by the Council’s Governing Board in 1992 to speak out against prejudice sadly still resonates today:
The Council recognizes that this struggle is not only for the freedom and equality of gay men and lesbians, but is also for the emancipation of the whole society from the destructive, emotionally crippling effects of fear and hatred.
Now, in 2016, we appreciate even more fully the gift of diversity offered to humanity by God. We recognize that humans fall along many spectrums of sexuality and gender identification, and we believe narrow definitions of humanity discredit the Creator’s good work. We stand with those who represent diversity and we will continue to advocate for all beloved by God.
As three of the state’s Episcopal bishops wrote Wednesday afternoon:
Today our hearts are grieved by the actions of the North Carolina General Assembly which, we believe, far from protecting public safety, actually contribute to prejudice and misunderstanding toward our neighbors whose gender identity is more complicated than the simple matter of anatomy. We salute the courage of those who have to navigate such a complicated matter in such public ways. Their honesty and integrity is in deep contrast to the very real and present danger of sexual predators who are often very difficult to recognize for all their seemingly average citizen behavior.
By stripping away these protections, the General Assembly harms North Carolina in the eyes of some of the same industry leaders that legislators claim they want to attract to our state. Even more importantly for many, it puts us on the wrong side of the prophets who preached justice and mercy, calling on us to be better than our fears and to transcend our biases.