No matter what you think of North Carolina House Bill 2 — the LGBT-unfriendly one, the one requiring transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their birth sex while in buildings supported by public funds — it was a bill that became law. It wasn’t an executive order or an emperor’s decree. It was sponsored in the state legislature, passed by that legislature and signed by the governor.
It was, in sum, the will of enough duly elected representatives that it became state law. Think about that the next time you go to the polls — or decide that it’s not worth going to the polls because you’re pressed for time or because your vote just doesn’t matter. Because votes, yours and mine and those of our legislators, can and do matter.
The NBA announced Thursday night that it is pulling the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte because, the league said in a statement, “we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2.”
Maybe you think this was the only choice a league that has become a leader in the fight for inclusion could have made. Maybe you think it’s a case of a high-minded outside entity trying to tell the people of North Carolina how to live. I’m not here to tell you what to believe — it’s a free country — but I am here to say: We must always think hard about whom we elect because elections have the capacity to effect change.
If you live in the Tar Heel state and you supported HB2, you should be willing to live with the repercussions. If you’re a North Carolinian and you find the law reprehensible, you should exercise your voting franchise in the attempt to get it repealed. The NBA can’t tell Carolinians how to live, but what happened Thursday was the NBA’s way of saying, “If this is how you want to live, don’t expect us to applaud.”
Yes, that’s political pressure being applied in an overt way. But politics runs on votes, and votes get counted. And not just in North Carolina. Something similar could have happened here, but Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed HB 757 in March. If he hadn’t, we might have lost the 2020 Final Four and mightn’t have landed the 2019 Super Bowl.
In announcing his decision, Deal said HB 757 — the “religious liberty” bill — did not reflect our state’s population of “warm, friendly and loving people,” saying also: “Our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.”
We elect officials to do right by ourselves and our neighbors. (We stipulate that one person’s definition of “doing right” might well differ from another’s.) Deal is a Republican who vetoed a bill sponsored by Republicans because he felt it was in the best interest of Georgia.
Maybe you believe he got it wrong. There’ll be other elections coming, and you can vote accordingly. But on a day when a major sporting entity thumbed its nose at a state because of a new law, we should all remember: Somebody had to elect those lawmakers. Votes count.