Since the passage of House Bill 2, more commonly known as the “bathroom bill” or HB2, on March 23, North Carolina has been the subject of national controversy. Cited as the one of the most anti-LGBTQ+ pieces of legislation in the nation, HB2 requires people to use the bathrooms corresponding to their biological sexes in public facilities. It also overrides several statewide anti-discrimination statutes. The bill was signed into law after a General Assembly special session met to reverse the Charlotte ordinance that expanded protections for the LGBTQ+ community in public areas.
While Davidson, as a private institution, isn’t directly affected by the bill and can continue to implement gender-neutral housing initiatives, several students have expressed shock and anger over a law that is said to directly attack LGBTQ+ rights.
Dylan Goodman ‘16, a campus LGBTQ+ advocate, recalled his immediate raw emotions: “I was in shock. I walked around for a bit and decided to go for a run because I was so filled with anger.”
Bridget Lavender ‘18, President Emeritus of the Davidson College Democrats, agreed, adding, “It’s pretty disheartening that this happened overnight and literally undid 30 years of antidiscrimination ordinances.” Lavender also commented on the alleged baseless nature of the bill. According to Lavender, “The entire premise of the law as protecting women and children from men who might masquerade as women and go into the bathroom and then rape someone has not been supported. It is harming our LGBTQ+ youth who aren’t able to express their genders or use the bathrooms with which they are comfortable.”
In a campus-wide email to address student concerns about the law, President Carol Quillen affirmed Davidson College’s commitment to tolerance and assured students to “continue to use the restrooms in which you feel most comfortable.”
SGA President Ben Callinder ‘17 and Vice President Dara Ferguson ‘17, who commended President Quillen for taking a stance, call for all Davidson students to “work for a better tomorrow and equity for all students even when our government fails to do so.”
Lavender said that she understands concerns about the messages that HB2 sends. In regards to the responses of prospective students, she mentioned a grandmother who praised her grandson for removing Davidson as his top choice college in response to HB2. “I get that the bill doesn’t directly affect Davidson, but prospective students are seeing the fact that discrimination is now completely legal in North Carolina, and as a result, people have lost their jobs for being gay just a few days after the bill’s passage,” Lavender said.
Commenting on the negative press surrounding Governor Pat McCrory over the last month, Elizabeth Wright ‘17, President of College Republicans, drew attention to the fact that some are taking advantage of the bill to weaken McCrory’s chance of re-election.
“I think that what people have forgotten is that a few years ago McCrory vetoed Amendment One, a discriminatory law against LBGTQ+ people. His veto was ultimately overridden, but it made him very unpopular among Republican circles. He did not want to do it again at the risk of losing the Republican base.”
Other students, however, felt that McCroy had a moral obligation to stand up for North Carolinians, even if he risked losing Republican support. Lavender added, “Even if he would have been overruled, he still has a responsibility to the LGBtQ+ population.”
Recently, McCrory has issued an executive order restricting state employees from being fired or harassed for identifying as LGBTQ+. Many students, however, feel that the order isn’t enough to ameliorate the situation.
Goodman’s says, “It’s too little, too late. You can explain it all you want, but the fact is that you passed a bill that denies safety and directly impacts all queer people, specifically those who are lacking job security in the first place and desiring a better minimum wage.”
Others see an underlying profit motive guiding McCrory’s sudden change of heart. Ferguson believes that the change stems from “multimillionaire dollar industries taking their business out of North Carolina.” “Unfortunately, it’s not an issue of rights and equal opportunity for people, but of money,” she stated.
Dr. Susan Roberts, a political science professor at Davidson, also pointed out that McCrory’s executive order “does nothing to change the bulk of HB2, as it only affects state employees.”
Despite the emotional responses that the bill has triggered among the Davidson community, many students perceive this legislative decision as a call to action. Lavender hopes the bill will lead “more people to care about the local election.”
In terms of supporting the LGBTQ+ community, Goodman hopes that the law “can make us all turn inwards as a campus and realize that we aren’t doing enough for queer and gender nonconforming students.”