It was like talking to a wall.

 

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I had a choice this morning. I could stand with protesters outside the Governor’s Western Residence in Asheville or I could try to get into the open house to address him personally.

I decided to try and get to him.

We started driving to the residence, but when we turned up Town Mountain Road, we were told we’d never get in unless we went to First Baptist Church and waited for the shuttle.

We waited for almost an hour. The event was supposed to start at 9:30, but we didn’t get onto the shuttle until 10:20. When we got to the house, we were told we had 15 minutes, so I went outside, where the governor was standing beside the fire pit.

I approached.

“Hi, I’m Pat,” he said.

“I’m Leslie,” I said and lifted up the photo of my late son. “This is Mike, who died after being denied access to care.”

He noticed a microphone on my collar. Robin Carter had placed it there in case she was able to video the encounter. She wasn’t allowed.

“I’m not talking to anyone who’s miked,” he said.

“Well, perhaps you’ll listen,” I answered.

I told him about Mike and about how five to seven people are dying every day in this state because he and his colleagues in the General Assembly have refused to expand Medicaid.

He countered that he tried to talk to President Obama about adding a work requirement, and I told him 70 percent of people who would be eligible for Medicaid work already, and virtually all of the rest are unable to work. I told him how hard a worker my son was, and that he was never looking for a handout, just someone who would be willing to help him stay alive.

“People who need Medicaid aren’t lazy, and they’re not greedy,” I said.

I didn’t add that the people who block access to health care are the takers. I was trying to be calm and polite.

“Well, Medicaid was a mess before I took office,” he said.

Yes it was, because in 2010, the Republicans took over the General Assembly and slashed funding so badly that the Republican secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services resigned rather than preside over such carnage. Before 2010, North Carolina’s Medicaid program was a national model.

But I didn’t have time to tell him that because he had already interrupted me to say he’s expanding access to Medicaid for people with autism.

I told him my benchmark is whether it would have given my son access to care, and adding in a few hundred people wouldn’t have done that. I also told him I don’t think privatizing Medicaid will work any better than privatizing mental health care a decade ago did.

He was happy to talk about the implosion of the state’s mental health system because that was done before he took office. I could see his eyes light up.

“Yes! That system is a mess, and so is treatment for addiction,” he said. “We really need to do something about that.”

But since the majority of people who have addiction don’t respond to treatment the first time, what should we do?

Prevention. That 14-year-old who had surgery probably doesn’t need opiates to deal with his pain, at least not for more than a few days, McCrory said. You give it to him for a month or more and you’ve created another addict.

Of course, this means we can’t have legalization of pot and the windfall of tax money that would come with it, but that’s an issue for another day.

My friends, Robin Carter and Matt Graunke wanted to talk about HB2, but we got the same answers he’s been giving to the media.

“I was on NPR,” he said, as though NPR only interviews reasonable people. He also said the law is about privacy, but when challenged about the privacy of a trans person who only wants to go into a stall and pee, that was different, of course.

He talked about wanting to protect women and both Robin and I said we had been assaulted or abused in places other than rest rooms by people our families knew and trusted, and that since we are adults now, we think women should have been consulted about whether we even think we need protection from trans people in bathrooms.

Frankly, I think we need protection from people like the governor and his friends in the General Assembly, because while they’re distracting us with talk about trans people in bathrooms, innocent people are dying — five to seven people every day, week in and week out, year after year.

When he said he felt sorry about how my son died, my question was whether he would be willing to say that to the 8,000 families of people who have died since he signed the law denying Medicaid expansion. Every one of those families is in just as much pain as mine.

But, hey, after many, many attempts to talk to him, after two arrests for “trespassing” on public property, after being locked out of the state house so he didn’t have to talk to me, I finally got some face time with him.

I only wish I had been able to make him see how his policies are killing innocent people.

At least he didn’t tell me he’s pro-life.

I’ll decide when I need your “protection”

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In Raleigh yesterday, more than 1,000 of us gathered to let the General Assembly and the governor know we do not approve of what I call Hate Bill 2, also known as the “Bathroom Bill.”

At least as many gathered behind the General Assembly Building to support it.

But a look at the two gatherings showed stark differences. The first was in the diversity of the crowds. The pro-bill folks were overwhelmingly white and mostly older. The anti-HB2 crowd was young and old, black, brown and white, gay and straight, male, female, gender-noncomforming, people of all faiths and people who have no professed religion.

We sang freedom songs, they sang Christian songs, the meanings of which they obviously didn’t understand.

Since I am a Christian, I can speak for what I believe, and I believe that Jesus, the leader whom I profess to follow, spoke not of hate and not even of tolerance; he spoke of love. He spoke of not judging others, and of standing up for “the least of these.”

The pro-HB2 crowd carried signs that claimed they want to protect women, but I don’t need or want their brand of protection. I can take care of my own protection, especially when you think you ought to “protect” me without my permission.

I am an adult. I will make my own decisions — including the decision of when and where to ask for anyone’s protection.

I have never felt threatened in a public bathroom, but I was not safe at my own grandfather’s house. Does this mean all grandfathers should be denied the chance to be alone with their granddaughters. Of course not; that would be absurd. And so is this law.

There are no incidences on record of a transgender person assaulting someone in a bathroom. In fact, most of them likely will tell you they often feel threatened. They certainly are far more likely to be harmed by cis-gender people in a public bathroom than they are to harm anyone.

They just want to go into a stall, close the door and do what they came to do.

The real problem is that the law has little to do with bathrooms; it is about a power grab, about denying local governments the ability to set their own policies, and about denying everyone the right to sue for discrimination in state courts.

We stood in Raleigh yesterday to demand repeal of the entire law, and then we sat down in the General Assembly Building to wait to be heard.

Of course, our legislative leaders had no desire to hear what we had to say, and instead of meeting with us had more than 50 of our people arrested.

We are not going away. We are not giving up. We are seeking justice for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and we will not stop until we get it

 

 

Too little, too late, Governor

Gov. Pat MccCrory waves at the camera after giving my friend, Jamie Sohn, a plate of cookies. I love the look on Jamie's face.

Gov. Pat MccCrory waves at the camera after giving my friend, Jamie Sohn, a plate of cookies. I love the look on Jamie’s face.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has issued a couple of executive orders this week that I’m sure he thinks will win him back some support.

Unfortunately, it’s far too little and way, way too late.

On Monday, he announced a limited “expansion” of Medicaid services, which would add people with autism, plus increase funding for substance abuse treatment.

He proposed increasing access to Naloxone, which reverses opioid and heroin overdoses, saying he wants to save lives.

Big deal, Governor. There’s still the prickly issue of that half million people with no access to health care, and up to 2,800 of them are estimated to die every year, or up to seven people every single day. Can you tell us why you don’t care about saving those lives?

The governor also said he has met with President Obama about a Medicaid waiver, which would let the state expand Medicaid with its own rules. Those rules would require Medicaid recipients to work to get coverage, and the president rejected that.

Now, the president doesn’t have the power to reject the provision on his own, but he certainly knows what would pass muster with the Center for Medicaid Services, and a work requirement won’t fly.

Thing is, most poor people do work. Many have more than one low-wage job and still live below the poverty level. Many can’t find full-time work because so many companies have stopped hiring full-time employees so they don’t have to offer health benefits. That’s why Medicaid expansion is so important.

The people who are dying are hard working. They’re not lazy, they’re not morally inferior, they’re just poor, and a big part of that is because the GOP has refused to increase the minimum wage to a living wage, which it was meant to be when it was enacted under Franklin Roosevelt.

That brings us to Hate Bill 2.

On Tuesday, the governor issued a video statement announcing he would seek to repeal a portion of the law, which was passed in a single day in a special session, and signed by him as soon as he could get it to his desk.

“I will immediately seek legislation in the upcoming short session to reinstate the right to sue for discrimination in North Carolina state courts,” he said.

But that doesn’t fix the power grab that denies towns and counties the ability to set their own minimum wage, among other things, and it leaves transgender people with no safe place to pee, and still doesn’t protect LGBT people or veterans.

They passed this abomination knowing there would be backlash, and I’m willing to bet they decided before it ever passed which parts of it they would be willing to sacrifice if things got too heated.

Sorry, Governor, but you won’t win back a whole lot of support with these feeble moves, and the lost business and the lost respect won’t be won back, either. You have made this once proud state a laughingstock, and you’re going home in November.

#OneTermPat.

 

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:

PART IV. SEVERABILITY

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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