On equal rights in Charlotte

On Thursday the state of North Carolina reached an “awkward compromise” to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial measure that restricted cities such as Charlotte from enacting anti-discrimination ordinances and required transgender people in public buildings to use the bathroom corresponding with the gender marked on their birth certificate.

“In a perfect world, with a good General Assembly, we would have repealed HB2 fully today, and added full statewide protections for LGBT North Carolinians,” said the newly elected governor of the state, Roy Cooper.

We agree with this sentiment. We’re hopeful the new legislation represents a first step toward an embracing of rights to those who are victims of discrimination. As this clash of social and political interests has played out, it has caused us to reflect as a Society on our reasons for going to Charlotte. One strong reason is that the people of Charlotte have supported equal rights for everyone, and in fact initiated the conflict by passing an ordinances to protect the LGBTQ community.

Last year, we published a statement regarding HB2 and a workshop Code of Conduct. We are ONLY working with venues that support Always Welcome Charlotte. Our host venue, the Sheraton in downtown Charlotte, has been equally adamant in affirming equal treatment of all minorities.

SND celebrates its standing as a geographically, culturally diverse and multidisciplinary journalism organization, and we believe everyone is equal under the law.

HB2 has proven costly for the state, as it has seen celebrities including Bruce Springsteen and Itzhak Perlman shun bookings in North Carolina, has seen businesses such as Paypal scrap business ventures there, and lost sporting events including the NBA All-Star Game and NCAA basketball tournaments. The total financial toll is in the billions.

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The repeal bill, HB142, is flawed. It continues discrimination against those in the LGBTQ community. (It is also worth noting, opposition to the new bill comes from both sides). It also will “effectively ban LGBTQ non-discrimination protections statewide through 2020 and permanently bar cities from passing laws that ensure transgender people can access facilities in accordance with their identity,” according to Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ equality.

GLAAD, the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union are among other organizations denouncing HB142, as did the mayor of Charlotte. In an editorial, the Charlotte Observer said, “The new bill ensures that all gay people – not just transgender people seeking to relieve themselves without being harassed – are susceptible to unequal treatment for at least the next 3½ years.”

In less than a month, we will meet in Charlotte and reaffirm our own values of diversity, inclusion and free speech.

As part of the program, we will address HB2 and the coverage of LGBTQ rights in the media. We will ask: What is the role of visual information and design in getting across to readers the facts about complicated and emotional issues. We’ll announce more details soon.

And we will redouble our efforts to build equality — everywhere.

– Stephen Komives, executive director, SND
– Jon Wile, 2017 workshop chair
– Steve Dorsey, 2017 workshop chair
– Kyle Ellis, 2017 workshop chair

About Stephen Komives

is Executive Director of the Society for News Design.

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