North Carolina bishops issue statement regarding HB2

[Diocese of North Carolina] On March 23, the North Carolina General Assembly convened a one-day special session to consider HB2, which legislators passed and Governor Pat McCrory signed the same day. The bill, drafted in response to a Charlotte City Council ordinance granting people the right to use gender-specific facilities based on their gender identity, not only reversed the local council’s action but also prevents local governments from extending anti-discrimination protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. Such protections are not included in the state’s anti-discrimination law. HB2 additionally prevents plaintiffs from filing anti-discrimination claims in state courts and prevents local governments from setting a minimum wage for private employers higher than the state minimum wage.

The legislation drew immediate criticism and has become the subject of national debate. The bishops’ statement issued April 26 follows.


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In our baptismal covenant, we commit “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” For many, this is the most difficult promise in the covenant, as it calls us to move beyond our differences, expectations, fears, prejudices and misunderstandings about other people and meet them where they are. At times, it means standing up in the world and speaking truth to power, knowing that there will be resistance. This promise takes us out of our comfort zone and into the uncharted territory of God’s grace.

In the highly polarized and political environment in which we live, we may be tempted to take sides on an issue or to back off entirely and be silent. But the issue of discrimination is not partisan, nor is it secular. The practice of discrimination by a state or institution limits, even prohibits, us from respecting the dignity of another human being. It inhibits our very capacity to care for one another and to work for the common good. This affects all people.

On March 23, 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2 (HB2). This bill overtly discriminates against LGBT people and goes further by cutting back on protection against discrimination for anyone in the state. HB2 does this by:

• Refusing to understand the complexity of the lives of transgender persons and criminalizing nonproblematic behavior by members only of that community; • Overturning the local passage of laws by the city of Charlotte to allow transgender persons to use the gender-specific facilities matching their identities, and requiring all people to use facilities according to the biological sex listed on their birth certificates;

• Preventing cities and counties from establishing ordinances extending protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons, while making no effort to call for protection at the state level; • Making it more difficult for people who are being discriminated against for reasons of race, age, sex, religion or disability to take legal action by making them take their cases to federal court instead of to the state;

• Discriminating against the working poor by restricting a community’s ability to demand that contractors raise minimum wages to living wages and pay for vacation and sick leave.

In the weeks since the passing of HB2, other states have followed suit, putting forth bills openly supporting discrimination against LGBT persons. Such discrimination by the state reinforces the fear and prejudices of people who do not know or understand the lives of people who are already marginalized in our society. It cultivates an environment in which we do not respect the dignity of each person but instead fight to hold on to personal power and privilege.

The response against HB2, in North Carolina and around the world, shows evidence that this bill affects the lives of more than a few people using the bathroom; it touches on the ongoing struggle for equality.

As a Church, we seek to love unconditionally as witnessed in the life of Jesus and follow his example by embracing those who are marginalized by society.

We affirm that all people are created in the image of God and are loved by God.

We oppose laws supporting discrimination against anyone by race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, genetic information or disability.

These are complex issues with wide-reaching ramifications. HB2 was introduced and passed into law in one day, without sufficient time to listen to the voices of all who are affected by the bill. The mounting economic losses for North Carolina show this hasty process did not leave room to consider what impact HB2 would have on our state. We are all paying the price.

Because we strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity every human being, we call on the North Carolina State Legislature to repeal HB2. We encourage our leaders to listen to the experiences of LGBT citizens and to seek to understand their lives and circumstances. Furthermore, we offer our prayers and support for the LGBT community, and for all who are affected by this bill.

Yours faithfully,

The Right Reverend Anne E. Hodges-Copple
Bishop Diocesan Pro Tempore of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina

The Right Reverend Porter Taylor
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina

The Right Reverend Robert S. Skirving
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina

The Right Reverend Peter James Lee
Bishop Assisting of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina

Comments

  1. Thank you, Bishops! You make us proud of our church.

    • I am not an Episcopalian (I am Unitarian Universalist and attend the Unitarian Coastal Fellowship in Morehead City, NC), but I see from Bishops’ statement that we share a lot of common values. Thank you for an excellent letter.

  2. My sincere thanks to all of you as bishops in North Carolina for making it clear that we choose to be followers of Jesus! This paragraph makes that very clear:
    “As a Church, we seek to love unconditionally as witnessed in the life of Jesus and follow his example by embracing those who are marginalized by society.”
    The clarity of your leadership is life giving to all of us.
    Peacefully,

  3. For anyone who is interested, I have designed an anti-HB2 bumper sticker which includes the phrase “Respect the Dignity of Every Human Being.” (I am former Director of Communications for the Diocese of North Carolina.) My first delivery from the printer will be on late Wednesday afternoon, and I plan to bring a supply to Raleigh on Thursday, April 28, to Quail Ridge Books, Diocesan House, and other places. I can be reached by email at literarymaps@aol.com. The bumper stickers will be available through our website http://www.malonesmaps.com probably by this weekend.

  4. Frank Riggio-Preston says:

    Thanks for speaking out in support and demonstrating God’s live of all people

  5. Paul Wooten says:

    Having been born and raised in N.C. (I know longer do) am ashamed of the turn this legislation has taken. Thank the church for taking such a positive stand against this hurtful law.

  6. Lee Anne Leland says:

    Thank you for your support. I grew up in the Episcopal church. I eventually became senior warden of the church I attended, all the while knowing that if I dared reveal who I was I would not be welcome. I was living a lie in order to fit in, something I had been doing my entire life. I watched as my church split over the ordination o an “openly gay Bishop” and knew there was no room for me.

    • Susan Powell says:

      You need to give the Episcopal Church another try. As in any other denomination, attitudes differ from church to church, but by and large, we are what the conservatives accuse us of being – outspoken liberals who stand up for justice. My Episcopal church in Pittsboro, NC would welcome you for sure – even on the vestry.

    • Scotty Plappert says:

      I agree with Susan. Many Episcopal churches have a “Welcome regardless” sign which is more than a sign; it is an active reflection of the message of love in the Gospel. If you are ever in Murphy, NC please worship with us.

  7. Zoe Brain says:

    Something most people don’t know… In order to qualify for a correction to their birth certificate, Trans people in NC have to have surgery. But in order to have surgery, the medical standards of care used by Gender specialists dictate a period of at least a year beforehand living in the target Gender role. This means using the correct restroom. HB2 therefore makes having such surgery impossible.

    The legislators know full well this Catch-22 situation. No change to birth certificate without surgery, and no surgery allowed now without a change to the birth certificate first. This law is deeply, deeply dishonest, in its very foundations.

    My thanks to the Bishops for their principled stand, that is bound to lead them to be attacked by unprincipled politicians. You have been weighed in the balance – and NOT found wanting.

  8. Cameron Partridge says:

    Thank you very much for this strong statement. As trans people are subjected to increasing attack– in the media and in person– it makes such a difference for us to hear these statements of support.

  9. Ann Woodley says:

    God’s child does not discriminate.
    Thank you.

  10. Karen Walker says:

    Thank you; thank you.
    From a grateful Episcopalian.

  11. Mary Watson says:

    It appears, once again, the Episcopal Church, instead of REALLY following Jesus and His teachings, seeks the altar of secularism. To love as Jesus loves does not mean accepting ones behavior as right. You speak of how quick the HB2 was passed, yet your statement does the same. If you truly read and understood the HB2, you would not believe the propaganda spewed that it has to do with discriminating against the lgbt community, but has EVERYTHING to do with ALL North Carolinians. Do you not care about the children of this state Bishops? Do you not care at all that the over 20,000 registered sex offenders who would have taken advantage of the Charlotte ordinance had HB2 not been put in place? Your actions and words are not that of Christ’s love but that of men seeking to work of evil, be it intentionally or blindly. I pray for the people of the Episcopal Church, you have led many astray. Check your own numbers….they have been in serious decline for many years, by your own admission. Why – because people are seeking truth, which they will not find behind that red door.

    • Robert Gillis says:

      Mary,
      You really need to go back to school and educate yourself about sexual orientation and gender. The statements that you make suggest that LGBT are sexual predators. That is a shameful lie you are spreading based on ignorance. The fact is that 99.9% of all sexual predators are heterosexuals and most of that 99.9% are heterosexual males. Please if you do not believe me look at academic studies that prove it. Therefore, I would ask do you not care about the children of the state of North Carolina? Are you lobbing your state legislature for new laws to protect children from heterosexual males, based on the fact that almost all pedophiles are adult heterosexual males? This is why I suggest that you educate yourself on issues of sexual orientation and gender before speaking about them. Sexual orientation and gender is a different issue then child molestation, the two are not related. In addition, there is a huge difference between ones perception; and what you have been led to believe, and what is actually the truth. I will pray that you find more compassion and understanding in your life.

  12. Phillipe Loher says:

    Proud of the Episcopal church, thank you! There is no need for discrimination in this world of ours. Even Trump, Nascar, Michael Jordan, and just about any real CEO agrees with you 🙂

  13. Terry Morris says:

    I think its disgraceful you call yourselves ministers of the Gospel. Please resign and go sell cars or something but don’t stand as ministers when you want stand for the Bible. HB2 is a stand for righteousness and common sense.

  14. Selena Smith says:

    Mr. Gillis,
    I read Mary’s comments and did not see any suggestion of equating LGTB persons with sexual predators. Instead what I read pointed to the NC bill as protecting all people from sexual predators
    who could disguise their gender appearance, and use restrooms as an arena for crimes against women and against men, and as you point out, those predators are mostly heterosexual males.

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