In North Carolina, key swing state for Clinton, a focus on trans issues

Candis Cox speaks outside the headquarters of the North Carolina Democratic Party in Raleigh, N.C., on Nov. 5, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)​
Candis Cox speaks outside the headquarters of the North Carolina Democratic Party in Raleigh, N.C., on Nov. 5, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Candis Cox speaks outside the headquarters of the North Carolina Democratic Party in Raleigh, N.C., on Nov. 5, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BY MICHAEL K. LAVERS  |  RALEIGH, N.C. — Finn Williams, a 19-year-old transgender man from Durham, N.C., voted for the first time in this election.

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Williams told the Washington Blade on Saturday before he spoke at a Trans United for Hillary press conference outside the North Carolina Democratic Party in Raleigh that he transferred out of three high schools because administrators would not allow him to use the boys bathroom. He said House Bill 2 — which bans trans people from using public restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity and prohibits local municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances — “caused a lot of anxiety” after Gov. Pat McCrory signed it in March.

“A lot of us are voting according to who’s going to protect LGBT rights and create the LGBT rights that we need,” said Williams.

HB 2 remains a top issue for Williams and for trans voters with whom the Blade has spoken in North Carolina.

Candis Cox of Raleigh told the Blade before she spoke at the Trans United for Hillary press conference that she “didn’t see any need to” change the gender on her out-of-state birth certificate when she transitioned in 2002. She said HB 2 says that she is a man.

“It completely negates my authentic gender,” said Cox.

Jay Cabell, a trans man from Greensboro, attended the Trans United for Hillary press conference with his wife, Elizabeth Curtiss-Cabell, and their 17-month-old daughter.

Jay Cabell told the Blade as he held his daughter that HB 2 has “forced” trans North Carolinians to “stay quiet” and made obtaining health insurance more complicated. Curtis-Cabell said her father, who is a Republican, voted against McCrory because “he just can’t stand the HB 2 bill, not only with the discrimination piece of it.”

“Just being the Republican he was like the amount of money that we have lost in this state over this bill is stupid,” she told the Blade.

Finn Williams speaks outside the headquarters of the North Carolina Democratic Party in Raleigh, N.C., on Nov. 5, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Finn Williams speaks outside the headquarters of the North Carolina Democratic Party in Raleigh, N.C., on Nov. 5, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

More than 1,000 people on Saturday gathered at the Grady Cole Center near downtown Charlotte for Gay Bingo, a fundraiser for RAIN, a local HIV/AIDS service organization.

A parody video that played during the event said McCrory should “go outside and pee in a dark alley” if needs to use the bathroom.

RAIN CEO Debbie Warren told the Blade that HB 2 has adversely impacted many of her organization’s clients. She said the days of protests and violence that took place in the city in September after an officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department fatally shot Keith Scott have heightened anxiety.

Warren also noted McCrory, who is the former mayor of Charlotte, signed HB 2 a month after the Charlotte City Council approved a measure that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.

“It’s really been a very horrifying time,” Warren told the Blade. “We were so elated when our protections passed by the City Council. We were really elated and really proud.”
HB 2 has been ‘disaster’ for N.C.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is running against McCrory, has repeatedly said on the campaign trail that HB 2 has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business.

The National Basketball Association this summer announced the 2017 NBA All Star Game would take place in New Orleans as opposed to Charlotte. The NCAA, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Atlantic Coast Conference have also cancelled their championships that had been scheduled to take place in North Carolina.

“House Bill 2 is a disaster,” says lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Linda Coleman in a campaign ad that is currently airing on North Carolina television stations. “Right now North Carolina is showing how not to create jobs.”

Former state Rep. Deborah Ross, who is running against U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and former state Sen. Josh Stein, who hopes to succeed Cooper as attorney general, have also highlighted their opposition to HB 2 in their respective campaigns. Candidates running against members of the North Carolina Legislature who voted for the controversial law have also noted it on the campaign trail.

“Our state is not a state that is represented by HB 2 that excludes folks,” said Brittany Desgages, a field organizer with TurnOUT NC, a campaign the Human Rights Campaign and the Equality North Carolina launched to encourage LGBT North Carolinians to vote, on Saturday during an event in Charlotte.

Chelsea Clinton, HRC President Chad Griffin, Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro and director Lee Daniels also spoke to the more than 200 people who were in attendance.

“We are not this,” said Sgro, referring to HB 2.

Cooper criticized over ‘bathroom plan’
McCrory in September described HB 2 as “common sense” in a campaign ad.
A large billboard with a picture of a girl that the North Carolina Values Coalition placed along I-40/85 near Graham, N.C., asks Cooper whether he would allow a boy to use the same bathroom that she does. An ad that the anti-LGBT group released last week criticizes him over his “bathroom plan.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal have filed a lawsuit against HB 2 on behalf of four LGBT North Carolinians. The Justice Department in May brought its own challenge against the state over the law.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder in August ruled the University of North Carolina could not enforce HB 2 because it likely violates Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits schools receiving federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex. McCrory in September quietly withdrew the lawsuit that his administration filed against the White House over its decision to challenge the law.

Cox told the Blade she remains optimistic that HB 2 would be repealed if voters elect Democrats to the Legislature.

“I’m really hopeful that the Legislature does their job and repeals it and then it goes to attorney general cooper’s desk if he is governor (and he) would sign it,” she said. “We’d be good to go.”

Williams agreed.

“At this point I have to be optimistic,” he told the Blade. “It’s kind of what keeps a lot of us going right now; this hope that we will get people into power this election that are going to protect us and are going to establish our rights and make discrimination against us illegal.”

Warren said she would be “elated” if Hillary Clinton, Cooper and other Democrats were to win in North Carolina.

“I would be relieved for the people we serve that there are people in office who care about their needs,” she told the Blade, stressing she was speaking in her own capacity.

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