Outward

North Carolina’s Largest Newspaper Compares Anti-LGBTQ Law to Southern Segregation

North Carolina’s vicious new law revoking protections for LGBTQ people and denying trans individuals access to the bathroom consistent with their gender identity has provoked a widespread outcry across the country. But as we learned during the battle over Indiana’s anti-LGBTQ measure, the most effective backlash is often homegrown: When influential local newspapers take a stand against legislative bigotry, politicians tend to notice.

It was thus encouraging to see the Charlotte Observer—the Carolinas’ largest newspaper—publish a brutal, fervent editorial lambasting Republican Gov. Pat McCrory for signing the bill into law. The legislation, the paper’s editorial board wrote, “was about a governor who decided his state will sanction discrimination against not only transgender people, but all homosexuals.”

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It was, in the end, about a 21st century governor who joined a short, tragic list of 20th century governors. You know at least some of these names, probably: Wallace, Faubus, Barnett. They were men who fed our worst impulses, men who rallied citizens against citizens, instead of leading their states forward.

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This is what Pat McCrory did Wednesday. In just 12 hours. It wasn’t the stand in the schoolhouse door. It was a sprint past the bathroom door and straight into the South’s dark, bigoted past.

Thanks to McCrory’s prejudice and cowardice, the editorial concludes, “We got a state newly stained, and a governor joining a sorrowful list of those who decided not to lead us forward, but to bow to the worst in us.”

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A well-respected newspaper does not compare the governor of its state to George Wallace and Orval Faubus—two savagely racist Southern governors who illegally resisted integration—unless it is quite serious about the stakes involved. But the Charlotte Observer, it seems, is quite serious indeed—as it should be. North Carolina’s new law constitutes a shocking, brazen attempt to condemn LGBTQ people to second-class citizenship. It is unconstitutional, yes; but it is also morally vile, a flagrant effort to repeat the South’s segregationist tactics of the past with a modern target. The Charlotte Observer deserves great credit for standing up to this kind of animus-driven legislative bullying, and for reminding McCrory that his tactics are all too familiar for any student of the South’s shameful history. 

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