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10 Good Things That Happened in 2016

Posted on in Legal News

For many of us, the end of the year brings a time for reflection. As champions of freedom and justice, we have faced unprecedented challenges in 2016, with North Carolina making headlines time and again for all the wrong reasons.

Yet even in the midst of repeated attacks on civil liberties, the wheels of progress have not halted. No matter who holds political office or what power they may wield, our work to hold the government to the eternal promise of the Constitution continues.

With vigilance and the generous support of our members and donors, this year the ACLU of North Carolina was able to achieve crucial advances in our work to reform the criminal justice system, protect reproductive freedom and voting rights, and protect all people from discrimination. Here is our list of the top ten advances for civil liberties in North Carolina this year.

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RALEIGH –The North Carolina legislature today convened for a special session where it failed to pass a bill repealing H.B. 2, the state’s sweeping anti-LGBT law.

Based on a promise from the General Assembly to fully repeal H.B. 2, the Charlotte City Council repealed its LGBT non-discrimination ordinances earlier this week. However, the Legislature failed to follow through on its promise, despite the deep and widespread opposition and outrage over the discriminatory nature of the law.

H.B. 2 bans transgender people from accessing restrooms and public facilities consistent with their gender identity and prevents local municipalities from extending nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people. H.B. 2 is estimated to have cost North Carolina over $600 million in lost revenue from businesses concerned with the discriminatory nature of the law, and was a contributing factor in the election defeat of the outgoing Governor Pat McCrory.

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RALEIGH – The Charlotte City Council voted today to repeal their LGBT non-discrimination ordinance in a move that could lead to the repeal of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law, H.B 2. The ACLU and Lambda Legal today called on North Carolina legislative leaders to follow through and repeal H.B. 2, the state law that bans many transgender people from appropriate restrooms and prohibits local municipalities from extending nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people. The law caused harm to transgender people across the state and cost North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue because of widespread opposition to the measure from both the general public and business community.

The two organizations issued the following statement in response.

“H.B. 2 was an unprecedented attack on the LGBT community, in particular against transgender people, and we are encouraged that its days are numbered,” said Sarah Gillooly, Policy Director for the ACLU of North Carolina. “It is imperative that the General Assembly hold up their end of the deal and repeal H.B. 2 in full without delay. This will be an important step for North Carolinians to move forward, but it never should have come at the cost of protections for LGBT people living in Charlotte.”

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RALEIGH – Leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly last night called a surprise special session to introduce legislation that would make sweeping changes to the state’s Board of Elections, Court of Appeals, judicial elections, executive branch appointments and more. Lawmakers had earlier reconvened to allocate funding for victims of Hurricane Matthew and other natural disasters but gave no advance notice of the second special session and additional legislation.

“These shameful partisan tricks undermine the will of North Carolina voters, waste precious taxpayer dollars, and will further erode the public’s trust in our state government,” said Karen Anderson, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina. “As we saw earlier this year with the surprise introduction and passage of the discriminatory, anti-LGBT House Bill 2, extreme legislation that is forced through without proper vetting and debate can have disastrous consequences for North Carolina. Such significant changes to our state’s elections and judicial systems should never be planned in secret and sprung on the public without advance notice. It’s particularly disgraceful that lawmakers have exploited the victims of Hurricane Matthew for partisan gain. These latest proposals could undercut the civil liberties of all North Carolinians.”

Earlier this year, North Carolina lawmakers convened a $42,000 one-day special session to introduce and pass House Bill 2, one of the nation’s most extreme laws targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people for discrimination, which prohibits local municipalities from extending nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people and bans many transgender people from public restrooms and other facilities that match their gender. The measure was introduced, passed, and signed into law in 12 hours. HB2 is being challenged in court by LGBT North Carolinians represented by the ACLU and Lambda Legal and has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business.

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