JEFFERSON-Last month, dozens of supporters of House Bill 2, which is now commonly referred to as the transgender bathroom legislation, filled the commissioners board room at the Ashe County Court House.
One by one, the concerned citizens – many of which who had toddlers in to get their point across to elected officials – approached the podium to plea with county commissioners to adopt a resolution of support for the controversial bill that has brought the beleaguered Tar Heel state several weeks of unwanted attention and negative publicity.
They spoke of child predators and indecency. They begged for common sense and being level headed in their decisions. Some wiped away tears as they spoke while others laughed at what they viewed as absurdity of the decision at hand.
Local preachers also took advantage of the impromptu congregation to reference scripture they said reinforced their viewpoints, which was met with a flurry of ‘amens.’
But none of those present – at least not addressing the Ashe County Board of Commissioners – spoke in opposition to the bill or advocated for the rights of transgender people.
That doesn’t mean there were not detractors of the commissioners’ decision.
Recent correspondences – by the way of emails sent to county commissioners that were provided to the Jefferson Post – reveal county commissioners received a backlash from locals for siding with Gov. Pat McCrory’s stance on who should use which bathroom.
Many of the senders were High Country residents, which was evident by their Skybest email accounts.
The list of detractors also includes religious leaders. Altogether, commissioners received at least a dozen emails during that time frame alone that denounced the legislation.
“I write to add my voice to others who have denounced your intent to support the ill-famed H-B2 on Monday (April 18),” wrote Rev. Robert McCloskey. “Surely you are aware of the damage that this action has already caused to our state? Major industries reducing or cancelling their plans to establish additional work opportunities – internationally known performers and artists cancelling their performances since the enactment of HB2 – reinforced prejudice against loyal citizens of North Carolina and a pathetic attempt by our Governor to undo his own stupidity and complicity in this debacle.”
McLoskey said Ashe County is proud of its increase in tourism and of attempting to obtain new emplopyment opportunities in the county.
“Do you really think that such a misguided action on your part will escape any ill effects from this move?” he asked. “And what kind of example is it setting for our school children and youth to be exposed to such bigotry by alleged leaders frequently in the name of morality.”
He was not alone in his views.
“I hope you will think long and hard before you endorse HB2,” wrote Cathy Groene to commissioners on Saturday April 16, which was two days before the commissioners made their decision. “With all of the commercial and personal backlash against North Carolina, I feel like you would be doing the county a disservice by supporting the bill. As a Realtor in the area I already had people cancel their plans to come and look at property here because of the bill.”
Linda Marsh also wrote the county commissioners the weekend leading up to the vote.
“This resident and voter in Ashe County is mortified and angry with the discrimination inherent in North Carolina’s HB2,” wrote Marsh. “Even in this particularly unsettling election year, I am incredulous that, on both the North Carolina and local level, people are still promoting bigotry and hatred after wars have been fought and people have died to earn equal rights for all of us…I am saddened and now embarrassed by the state I call home.”
Sarah Carmichael, of Creston, told the commission that she thought the bill is “shortsighted and cruel and it has already done economic harm to our state.”
She also said it is a “horribly written piece of legislation,” which has legalized discrimination against her friends in Charlotte.
“What you think of as ‘commonsense’ legislation is anything, but commonsense,” wrote Carmichael. “It forces families with young children of the opposite sex to be unprotected in restrooms and locker rooms. It inhibits economic development. It makes our beautiful county seem unwelcoming…Don’t let yourselves be on the side of history that puts kids in danger and destroys NC’s economy because of a poorly-considered, hastily written law.”
Carmichael sent her email to county administration on April 17, which was one day before the board’s vote to adopt a resolution of support for HB2.
The controversial state law has remained in the news since its passage and now state and federal officials are at odds over the bill – with billions in federal funding in the balance.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Justice Department said the law amounts to illegal sex discrimination and gave Gov. Pat McCrory until Monday to say he would refuse to enforce it.
That deadline arrived and a defiant McCrory instead sued the federal government. Later in the day, the Justice Department said it would then sue the state and seek a court order to declare the law discriminatory and unenforceable.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.