It takes courage to stand up by remaining seated

Unless you're doing something to bring injustice into the light and protest it, you need to be quiet about Colin Kaepernick's protest.

Unless you’re doing something to bring injustice into the light and protest it, you need to be quiet about Colin Kaepernick’s protest.

Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem the other day in protest to the injustices suffered every day in this country by people of color.

A lot of Americans are pretty pissed about that, but those same Americans will ignore or excuse the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of cops.

They say nothing as dozens of veterans commit suicide every day because they can’t get the care they need after four, five or six deployments to war zones.

They remain silent as the maternal and infant death rates go up because access to women’s health care is shut down by people who call themselves “pro-life.”

When the courts find that the new voter “protection” laws actually were written to make it harder for black and brown people, students and the elderly to vote, these same people claim those laws are fine. “Surgical precision” was the way the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals phrased it. The people who wrote North Carolina’s voter law actually requested and reviewed statistics on black people’s voting habits and wrote the law to maximize the hurt. I know because I was in the courtroom when the state’s lawyer reluctantly admitted it.

When transgender people are singled out for discrimination in “bathroom” laws, these same people who hate Colin Kaepernick turn the other way because it doesn’t affect them.

We complain about people “taking” from the government. “Something for nothing,” we call it. But at the same time, we refuse to pay people a living wage for 40 hours of work.

“Get off your lazy ass and work,” we say to people who hold down two and three part-time jobs because huge corporations don’t want to help people get health care, so they only hire part-time workers to avoid offering health care, sick time and other benefits.

But when a football player — someone they love because he provides them with entertainment — has the temerity to bring these injustices to their attention, they just hate him.

“He’s a coward,” they say.

Really? He’s willing to sacrifice all he has to make this statement.

The national anthem is a song, a symbol; the people Colin Kaepernick stood up for by staying seated are very real, as are the injustices they face every day in our society.

In my book, whether I agree with his action or not, he has courage.

A primer on HB2 and why it’s not going away

Anti-HB2 signs left in the doorway of NC Senate leader Phil Berger

Anti-HB2 signs left in the doorway of NC Senate leader Phil Berger after a rally to oppose the law.

On March 23, the North Carolina General Assembly met in special session to pass House Bill 2, or what would become known as the transgender bathroom law.

The outrage was immediate, as it should have been. Transgender people are being forced to use the bathroom assigned to the gender that they no longer identify with.

If you think you don’t know anyone who is transgender, you probably just don’t know who was born with a penis and who was not. You’ve been peeing with them for a long time, I assure you.

The media went wild with news of the bathroom bill. Companies, sports events, entertainers and tourists pledged to boycott North Carolina, costing the state tens of millions of dollars. That fueled even more media attention about this awful bathroom bill.

Except it isn’t a bathroom bill any more than the motorcycle bill of three years ago was about motorcycles (in case you don’t recall, that “motorcycle safety” law is chock full of restrictions on women’s reproductive rights).

Sure, Article One is all about hating transgender people and denying them the right to use the appropriate bathroom, and that’s just wrong on every level.

But read on.

The law goes on to deny people in North Carolina the right to sue for discrimination in state courts. Instead, we’re supposed to go to federal court, which is much more expensive, likely much farther away and has only one-sixth the statute of limitations (six months versus three years). Most people can’t do that.

The law also takes away the power of local governments to set their own discrimination policies or minimum wage. This, of course, helps keep people in poverty so those in power can criticize them as lazy.

But the bathroom part of the law is what’s making headlines and it has fired up the ultra-conservative base.

And this is exactly what the thugs in power planned.

The furor over the clearly unconstitutional bathroom part of the law has drawn attention away from the rest of the law, which is just as egregious.

The US Justice Department has informed the state that this piece of the bill is a violation of US Civil Rights Law. The state can fight that, and if it does, here’s what “leaders” are hoping for:

With a Republican candidate the base isn’t willing to support, the NC GOP puts the bathroom piece of the law on the November ballot. This will bring out their base, who may or may not vote for president, but will vote down-ticket for Richard Burr, Gov. McCrory, Republican candidates for Congress and these very legislators who crafted HB2.

Like Amendment One, which enshrined hatred into the state Constitution, they know this piece of the law is unconstitutional and will be overturned.

But they have what they want: Republicans elected and the rest of the law intact.

Even if they don’t fight the Justice Department decision, the NC GOP has most of what it wants because law has a clause that states if part of it is overturned or repealed, the rest survives.

And there you have it. HB2 is a naked power grab, fueled by hate and written by thugs.

Meanwhile, suicide hotlines are reporting an increase in the number of calls from transgender people. People are being dragged out of bathrooms because they’re not masculine or feminine enough to satisfy some bigot. Men are going into the women’s bathrooms at Target to check on people and “protect” women.

The worst part is that a majority of people who voted for this law are running unopposed for their seats this fall.

In other words, we’re likely to see a return of the thugs to power because no one wanted to get involved and run against them. We have the government we deserve.


NC’s Hate Bill 2 is worse that you thought

Rabbi Wolff Alterman at a demonstration in Asheville just after Hate Bill 2 was passed.

My friend Wolff Alterman at a demonstration in Asheville just after Hate Bill 2 was passed. The sign was approved by his 15-year-old daughter.

Thousands of North Carolinians have been out protesting the state’s new law, HB2, which codifies discrimination against transgender people by forcing them to use the public restroom of the gender into which they were born, not the gender they have become.

While that provision is backward, mean-spirited and ignorant, it is not the end of the abominable provisions in the law.

If you read Section 2, you’ll find the real reason the law was passed: a trip back in time to when discrimination was legal, whether it was based on gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.

The law forbids local municipalities from setting their own minimum wage and discrimination policies. It also forbids discrimination lawsuits at the state level, meaning that people who have been discriminated against have to file in federal court — a very lengthy and expensive process that most people just can’t go through.

So, while we demonstrate against the narrow-minded, unscientific, backward bathroom provisions; while we endure the fact that we are the laughingstock of the nation and the world, while we watch the state lose billions of dollars in business and in all probability, billions more in federal funding, most people have failed to notice that the second part of this law is even more damaging than the first.

This bunch of backward, dimwitted, ignorant clods has reinstated Jim Crow in North Carolina.

And what’s worse is that when the bathroom provision is overturned, as is inevitable because it us unconstitutional and unenforceable, the rest of the law stands, thanks to this provision:


31 SECTION 4. If any provision of this act or its application is held invalid, the

32 invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of this act that can be given effect

33 without the invalid provisions or application, and to this end the provisions of this act are

34 severable. If any provision of this act is temporarily or permanently restrained or enjoined by

35 judicial order, this act shall be enforced as though such restrained or enjoined provisions had not

36 been adopted, provided that whenever such temporary or permanent restraining order or injunction

37 is stayed, dissolved, or otherwise ceases to have effect, such provisions shall have full force and

38 effect.

In other words, the real meat of the bill is the reinstatement of Jim Crow, and if we throw out the bathroom rules, we still have to sue to get rid of the rest if the law.

Stealing airports, water and other assets from local municipalities was only the beginning; we stand to lose the ability to make our own towns and cities better places to work and live.

Businesses with a conscience will flee the state like rats off a sinking ship, but abusive companies — those who want to be able to control their employees through fear and intimidation — will rush to set up shop. Workers’ rights have been set back 100 years, just what the Koch Brothers, Art Pope and ALEC wanted all along.

To the voters who stayed home in 2010 and allowed the Tea Party to take over our legislature: we’re now enduring life with the government you deserve. Taking it back will be difficult because 2010 was a census year and the new majority gerrymandered voting districts to such an advantage that it will be almost impossible to dislodge this crew of fools.

It will take at least a generation to fix what’s been broken in the last six years here. We can start by working for the opponents of these Tea Party darlings and then voting in November. If you don’t do that, you’re as guilty as those whose names are on this law.






Yes, we do!

Amy and Lauren run Be Loved House, which ministers to homeless and poor people. They take no salary, but live on donations of food and clothing. They want the legal rights and protections that marriage offers. They were among the eight arrested Friday.

I cry at weddings. What can I say? I’m a mush.

But yesterday, I cried because a dozen of my friends were rejected when they asked to make the same legal contract my husband and I made 29 years ago.

The Campaign for Southern Equality sponsored a “We Do!” rally here in Asheville. More than 300 people, including more than a dozen members of the clergy, turned out to support them.

It was a perfect day for a wedding, sunny and warm with just a slight breeze. Spring flowers are in bloom and the couples were surrounded by friends and family.

The only catch was that they’re not full citizens because they happen to love people of the same gender, so they were turned away.

Amy and Lauren run Be Loved House in Asheville. They’ve dedicated their lives to helping people who are homeless.

Elizabeth and Kathryn have been together 30 years and raised two daughters. They were arrested last year when they tried to get a marriage license and then refused to leave the Register of Deeds office. They were convicted of second-degree trespass and fined. So they’re convicted criminals. I tell them often I hope to dance at their wedding on the day they finally are allowed full rights.

Elizabeth and Kathryn have been together for 30 years and have raised two daughters together. Their friends call then The Llama Mamas because Elizabeth rescued two llamas several years ago. They and their menagerie of animals live atop a mountain outside of Asheville.

“I hope I don’t need a walker to get to the altar,” Elizabeth told me. That was a few minutes before Kathryn stepped up to the microphone to sing “You are so Beautiful” to all of us who were there for them.

I told Elizabeth if she’s 90 and in a wheelchair, I’ll wheel her down the aisle.

I’ve known them for 10 years and sang with them in the choir for the first five of those years. I’ve prayed for them and members of their family as Elizabeth went through breast cancer and members of Kathryn’s family suffered the loss of a baby.

I’ve snuggled their dogs, petted their llamas and hugged both of them when they’ve been looked down upon because they love each other.

I think they’re two of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met.

And finally, Patrick and Mark. I met Patrick when he was executive director of the Red Cross chapter here. I was working for the newspaper and a former employee was arrested for stealing from the agency.

Unlike most executive directors caught up in something like this, Patrick took my call because he wanted to reassure donors that everything would be OK. In my decades of experience in the newspaper business, few executives had the courage to say anything other than, “No comment.” So I liked Patrick right away.

Mark and Patrick. I'm calling this their official engagement photo.Patrick spent his career working for nonprofits, including the Red Cross. They were turned away Friday when they asked to be granted a marriage license.

He and Mark lived several hours apart and were able to be together on weekends and holidays until Patrick retired earlier this year. Now they’d like to be married. I can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t.

I want people to see these faces and know these stories because these are real people who are being denied the right to the same legal protections and benefits I have, and the only reason they’re seen as legally less deserving than I am is because they happen to love someone of the same gender.

These are only six of the hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who are the targets of the discrimination the voters of this state etched into their constitution this week. Look at their faces, look at the way they look at each other and then tell me again why I can’t dance (and cry) at their weddings.


Please vote against hate

I’d like you to meet my friends Amy and Lisa and their four kids. They work hard to make ends meet and raise these kids. They fuss over what to watch on TV, try to keep the house in order — pretty much everything a straight couple does.

But if The Amendment passes in North Carolina next month, they will never be recognized by the state as a family. If Amy gets sick, Lisa may not be able to have a say in how she is treated.

The Amendment, as it is called on the ballot, would insert discrimination into the state’s constitution.

It also would affect heterosexual couples who have chosen not to marry legally — something several couples I know have chosen to protest discrimination against gays and lesbians. They could lose domestic partner benefits.

What’s even scarier is that it would make domestic violence laws more difficult to enforce, as has happened in Ohio. Women who are battered by their boyfriends are less likely to be able to prosecute under domestic violence laws. They can still file assault charges, but there are fewer protections for them. It is a huge step backwards.

North Carolina already has a law against same-sex marriage, but opponents — who overwhelmingly object on religious grounds — want to make it even harder to repeal the ban.

I believe Amy and Lisa have a right to be married legally and have the same legal benefits and protections I do. Marriage is a legal contract and it should be nothing more than that to the state. To bring religion into it violates the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which supersedes the state’s. It’s none of my business whether a couple is gay or straight; the only marriage I should have any say in is my own.

Early voting begins next Thursday. Before you vote, please consider the harm this amendment would cause to gay and straight couples and their children. It’s morally wrong and it needs to be defeated.


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