Did you hear that? That was the sound of a bomb being dropped on the LGBT citizens of North Carolina.
This week, the legislature called a special session – the first in North Carolina in 35 years – for the sole reason of overturning a non-discrimination law against LGBT people in Charlotte.
That was it. No other reason. They spent $42,000 a day of taxpayer money to try to overturn that law – and every law like it in cities, counties, and jurisdictions all over North Carolina.
And they succeeded. The conservative majorities passed – and the conservative governor signed – one of the most sweeping anti-LGBT laws in the nation.
North Carolina is not alone. Georgia’s legislature passed a so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act or RFRA that allows the denial of services to LGBT people based on religious objections. Georgia’s governor has not yet signed the law and is facing immense pressure from major companies to veto it.
LGBT people in Kansas weren’t so lucky. The RFRA there has become law. And now, Kansas is considering a “transgender bounty” bill that would PAY students for each report of a transgender person in the “wrong” bathroom or locker room.
This year has seen a record number of anti-LGBT bills in state legislatures coast to coast. Oklahoma alone saw 27 anti-LGBT bills filed. Fortunately, none of them became law. And many others in conservative states were killed or vetoed.
We certainly didn’t need a new enemy. We’ve had more than our share already. But we have a new one circulating among us: complacency.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality last year, progressives have acted as if the fight for LGBT rights is basically over, while conservatives have found new angles of attack.
We’re on the defensive for the first time in years. And we need to figure out not just how to defend ourselves, but to go on offense. There are still too many issues to confront: discrimination in employment, housing, and access; banning so-called conversion therapy; HIV/AIDS; health care access; transgender protections; bullying; homeless LGBT youth; LGBT seniors’ needs; and the list goes on.
We need to create a comprehensive strategy to face our opponents. We need to develop compelling messages that motivate the LGBT community and our straight allies, including friendly companies, to take action. We need to organize and build partnerships with other progressive organizations to respond to these attacks. And we need to take every bit of action we can to draw attention to our issues and their importance.
We at Turner have that commitment. We have the resources, the expertise, and the experience to help in this fight. We’re ready and willing to work with the LGBT community to make it happen. And we’re just a phone call or e-mail away.
It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to happen overnight. But we need to start now. We have to commit ourselves to making it happen. And we have to continue to fight as if our lives depend on it – because they do.
Chip Lewis is a Principal at turner4D.