On March 28, five days after HB 2 was signed into law, Raleigh mayor Nancy McFarlane issued a statement that was remarkably anodyne for something released nearly a week after the law’s passage. Three weeks later, it’s infuriating.
“Raleigh is a welcoming, diverse city that draws its strength from many areas. We have always been a place where people respect each other’s differences and understand that those differences make us stronger. We still have many questions as to the effect of HB2 on our City processes. Our legal staff is conducting a careful review and we hope to have more insight as to the bill’s impacts in the coming days. … Raleigh will always be open to everyone. Everyone. We will continue to support all of our businesses, citizens and visitors with the utmost respect, regardless of race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.”
That was twenty-one days ago. In the time since HB 2’s passage, the cities of Asheville, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, and Greensboro have all passed resolutions against HB 2, as has the Durham County Board of Commissioners.
Raleigh, meanwhile, hasn’t said anything else about it.
The council’s inaction on HB 2 is illustrated even further by a commission, whose members were appointed by the mayor, that is asking them to take it up. Last week, Raleigh’s Human Relations Commission voted 5–4 to send a resolution formally calling for the repeal of HB 2 to the city council for a vote. From what we’ve found out over the past week, however, Raleigh has no plans to do such a thing.
In the wake of the law’s passage, several Raleigh city council members told the INDY they opposed HB 2. Council member Bonner Gaylord said he was “disappointed to see the state take such a step”, and Russ Stephenson (At-Large) questioned the bill’s constitutionality, while MaryAnn Baldwin said that it was “morally wrong, hurts North Carolina’s brand, and harms our ability to attract new businesses.”
“I’m heartsick,” she added.
Regardless, the body as a whole has still not taken formal steps to oppose HB 2 or call for its repeal. Repeated calls to the city attorney’s office were not returned, and today, communications director Damien Graham told the INDY that “neither the [Human Relations Commission] or their resolution is on the agenda for [tomorrow’s City Council meeting.]” (You can read the agenda here.)
While individual cities can’t override state law, what these resolutions do is show a firm commitment to equality in the face of the legislature making discrimination state law, as well as solidarity with the city of Charlotte against what has become habitual overreach into local affairs. As Section 3 of Durham’s resolution back on April 7 read:
The Durham City Council respectfully calls on all businesses providing public accommodations in the City of Durham to show their support for the rights and dignity of all people by openly welcoming LGBT people to their places of business, by providing gender-nonspecific bathroom facilities for their customers and employees wherever practicable, and otherwise to encourage their customers and employees to use the bathroom facilities that most closely align with their gender identity.
In order for municipalities to show their distaste for HB 2 and likeminded laws that strip power away from local governments, they have to stand together. North Carolina’s third, fourth, and eleventh most populated cities are standing with Charlotte; it’s time for Raleigh to do the same thing.