April 21, 2017 at 5:17 pm PST | by Karen Ocamb
Democratic Governors Association planning conference in anti-LGBT North Carolina

Has the Democratic Party lost its soul or just its mind by forfeiting its allegiance to LGBT equality?

For the past few months, the Democratic Governors Association (DGA)—an organization operating separate from but under the auspices of the National Democratic Committee—has been planning a policy conference in North Carolina, according to a very reliable source with knowledge of the action.

Apparently the planning started after a former staffer for newly elected North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper joined the DGA. The source did not know if the conference was a counter-measure to the backlash from such prominent LGBT organizations as the Human Rights Campaign, Equality North Carolina and Equality California over Cooper’s “compromise” with conservative state Republicans to “repeal” the transphobic HB2 law in order to appease business boycotters such as the NCAA.

The appeasement worked. On April 18, the NCAA announced that North Carolina is again free enough from anti-LGBT discrimination to hold championship games. “The NCAA has fallen ‘hook, line, and sinker’ for this ‘bait and switch’ sham ‘deal’ doubling down on discrimination,” JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs, said in a press release. “[T]he NCAA has undermined its credibility and is sending a dangerous message to lawmakers across the country who are targeting LGBTQ people with discriminatory state legislation.”

HB 142 still prohibits local anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people in public accommodations or private employment practices until Dec. 1, 2020 and leaves regulation of multiple occupancy restrooms, showers or changing facilities to the state. “I think this will address issues of who we are, how inclusive we are and whether everyone is valued,” said Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue about the “reset” back to pre-HB2 days, according to the News & Observer.

But the LGBT community isn’t buying what that Blue man is selling. “The governor threw the LGBT community under the bus,” Victory Fund President & CEO Aisha C. Moodie-Mills told the Washington Blade last month. “It was the LGBT community that ultimately pushed Roy Cooper into victory and he would be wise to remember that. I’m disheartened but I’m not surprised. At the end of the day opportunism is not partisan.”

It was an opportunity the Trump Justice Department couldn’t resist, withdrawing its complaint against HB2 citing the purported repeal.

“Here is yet another instance of the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions withdrawing the federal government’s support from transgender individuals, and they are using the fake repeal of HB2 as cover,” said Lambda Legal’s Jon W. Davidson, noting that Lambda Legal and the ACLU are still pursuing legal challenges to the law.  

Already facing erasure in Trump’s America, the LGBT community may now be facing the slow betrayal of once reliable friends. Democratic pundits now talk about shucking off “identity politics” in favor of economic issues that appeal to overlooked Trump voters. But economic issues are LGBT issues when an LGBT person can be legally disqualified from applying or fired for simply being LGBT. According to a 2015 Center for American Progress report, “America’s 5.1 million LGBT women face lower pay, frequent harassment, compromised access to health care, and heightened violence” and are at high risk for poverty, especially lesbians with children.

The Democratic Governors Association Facebook page offers this glowing tribute to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

Isn’t poverty an issue of concern to America’s Democratic governors?

The Los Angeles Blade source says the DGA has “contacted” the offices of the DGA Executive Committee about the planned conference in North Carolina. The committee is made up of: incoming Chair Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe; Oregon Gov. Kate Brown; and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

The Blade made repeated calls to the offices of the executive committee members and made numerous calls and sent several emails and even Tweeted DGA Communications Director Jared Leopold, to discuss the planned conference but received no response.

Gov. Inslee’s office did respond, but noted that the DGA question was political and outside the scope of the governor’s office. However the staffer noted, Inslee signed a renewed travel ban to North Carolina and therefore it was unlikely that the governor would violate state law to travel to the conference.

Brown’s press office said the question should be put to the governor’s reelection campaign. An email and two calls to campaign manager Thomas Wheatley were not returned. When HB2 first came out, bisexual Gov. Kate Brown said she was “appalled” by the new law but has not commented on the new law.

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for Cuomo, previously told the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson:  “Our review of the new North Carolina law is ongoing, and the Governor’s Executive Order ‎currently remains in effect.”

North Carolina travel bans are being upheld by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and California Gov. Jerry Brown.

“Discrimination is unacceptable and we intend to protect LGBT rights,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. “California’s law was enacted to ensure that, with limited exceptions, our taxpayer resources are not spent in states that authorize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. North Carolina’s new law does not cure the infirmity of this type of discrimination.”

Cities keeping their travel bans include: New York City; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Los Angeles; Oakland; Santa Fe; Cincinnati; Salt Lake City; Palm Springs, Calif.; West Palm Beach; Portland, Maine; Burlington, Vt; and Wilton Manors, Florida—where a series of egg-throwing attacks in the city’s gay corridor are being considered as hate crimes.

The LGBT community has had problems with the DNC before and has been expected to just “grin and bear it.” That time’s long gone. LGBT grassroots have glimpsed full equality and won’t settle for crumbs doled out by DGA smart-ass sell-outs. If the party wants to regain power, it needs to reclaim its soul—and that means embracing the struggle of America’s official second-class LGBT citizens.

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