Three new pieces of legislation presented in the state House last week by Democrats deserve support from all legislators — and from anyone interested in fairness.
One of the bills, the Equality for All Act, would expand protections to LGBT people, specifically preventing them from being discriminated against when buying a home, getting a job, receiving credit or getting insurance or public housing.
A second bill, the Mental Health Protection Act, would prohibit so-called “conversion therapy” for minors and discipline state-licensed counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists who engage in professional work to alter the sexual orientation of someone under age 18 or an adult with a disability.
And the third would fully repeal the remnants of the notorious House Bill 2 law — the so-called “bathroom bill” that prevented local governments from approving LGBT antidiscrimination ordinances and directed transgender people to use public bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.
“Currently LGBTQ (members in) North Carolina — like so many other minorities — are treated like second-class citizens, without basic protection from discrimination,” Kendra Johnson with Equality NC told The Associated Press. These three bills would go a long way toward ending that discrimination.
“We believe that whether you are buying a home, choosing a school or accepting a job, you should never feel disrespected because of who you are or who you love,” Sen. Terry Van Duyn, a Buncombe County Democrat, said of the first bill at a news conference. We agree.
Conversion therapy is currently legal in North Carolina, but it’s been outlawed in 15 states and the District of Columbia. It’s been associated with the unscientific use of electroshock treatments and sleep deprivation techniques — and judging from many first-hand accounts, doesn’t work.
A deeper problem with such therapy is that it perpetuates the “ugly myth that we can and should be changed,” Allison Scott, a transgender woman with the Campaign for Southern Equality, said. The bill “would send a message to all LGBTQ young people that we see them, we support them and we are here to ensure they’re safe and affirmed.”
With higher rates of depression and suicide among LGBTQ youth, often attributed to bullying and societal pressure, that’s an important message to get across.
HB2, passed in 2016, led to a strong backlash from businesses that had considered expansion here, as well as organizers of sporting events and musical performances. A 2017 law that removed some of its more offensive ingredients didn’t go far enough. We should show the business, sporting and entertainment industries that we’ll treat their employees and customers with respect.