NAGS HEAD, N.C. (WAVY) – The controversial North Carolina law that has riled up the LGBT community could soon be hitting the Outer Banks, hard.
Now one community is taking a stand to outwardly oppose the bill, before tourism season ramps up.
“Hospitality is our whole economy, guests drive the whole thing down here,” said Bob Oakes, a former mayor and owner of Village Realty.
“I thought we’d get some backlash. I didn’t think we’d get as much as we’ve gotten, shark attacks didn’t bring this much mail,” Oakes says.
Since the passage of HB2, the ‘bathroom bill,’ his inbox has begun filling up with emails from tourists wanting to cancel their vacation rentals.
“The overt bigotry of your state is offensive and so very backwards,” said one customer. Others are asking for their deposits back, “We will no longer be traveling through or vacationing in North Carolina until such a law is repealed,” wrote another.
The town’s mayor agrees with Oakes about the economic ramifications, but says the problems with the bill run much deeper.
“This bill is discriminatory and it is a total embarrassment to us, a total embarrassment to the state of North Carolina. It’s just not who we are,” said Mayor Bob Edwards.
“We’re open for business. We welcome all people regardless of race, color, creed, LGBT affiliation, or whatever. We welcome everyone to Nags Head,” Edwards said. “We don’t want to step back in history 50 years. I’m old enough to know how it was in the 1950’s and that’s where this bill takes us to.”
Wednesday Mayor Edwards and the Nags Head Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to openly oppose the bill. Mayor Edwards says he’s also working with the town manager and town attorney to draft a letter to send Governor Pat McCrory, and their state representatives.
Within hours of Wednesday’s vote, Edwards says his inbox also started clogging up, but those emails carried a much different tone from the angry tourist backing out of rental agreements.
“I don’t think there are enough words to express my surprise and gratitude,” Edwards read from an email he received from a former resident. “You see I was born as a male and over the past three years I have been in the process of medically transitioning,” the person wrote. “I’ll always love Nags Head, but I have to say that I’ve never in my life been more proud that I was once a resident. Thank you so much for sticking up for me, I will never forget it.”
Edwards says he knows the town has no power to enforce different laws. Openly opposing the law doesn’t mean the town can change its operations, but he hopes the action is one step toward an eventual repeal.
10 On Your Side reached out to North Carolina Representative Paul Tine, who represents Nags Head. We learned the voted to oppose HB2. However, State Senator Bill Cook, (R-District 1) who also represents Nags Head, voted in favor of the bill.
Tine sent the following statement to WAVY’s Deanna LeBlanc:
I came to Raleigh hoping that we would deal only with the issue of access to bathrooms and changing areas. Everyone deserves respect and safety, but that should not create a privacy issue for other individuals. The best solution would have defined bathroom access while allowing for accommodations for individuals that need it on public properties. The bill we were given, however, was more comprehensive.
My issues with the bill lay in the last section. This section creates a statewide policy of non-discrimination. In doing so the bill states “… no person may bring any civil action based upon the public policy expressed herein.” In other words, the ability to seek damages for discrimination by employers based on race, religion, color, national origin, age, biological sex or handicap will no longer be allowed under state law. Furthermore, the bill states who should be protected under state law. This is a broader policy debate that should not be decided within a special session called to address a specific issue. Determining protected classes, to the exclusion of certain subsets of our community, should be determined through careful consideration. When you do not include individuals that are often discriminated against, no matter who they may be, you set a path of choosing those that will be treated fairly, and those that will not.
With the inclusion of these two extra provisions, I could not vote for this version of the bill.
Sen. Cook provided us with the following statement:
Charlotte tried to eliminate the privacy for not only people who live, visit and work in Charlotte but also for any businesses wanting to do business with Charlotte regardless of their location. It is simple, we don’t believe grown men should be allowed to go to the bathroom or take off their clothes in the presence of little girls. This was wrong and we stopped it,” Sen. Bill Cook said. “A person that has undergone a sex change operation can amend their birth certificate to reflect their new sex, and legally access the facilities for that sex. The law only affects those who would abuse the opportunity to access the private designated areas for the opposite sex. For the first time in North Carolina we now have a statewide non-discrimination policy that defends the federally recognized protected classes: race, religion, color, national origin and biological sex. Also, about one-fourth of the House Democratic caucus voted for the law because they knew Charlotte had overstepped its authority and tried to impose a dangerous social agenda on everyone else for purely political reasons. In the Senate, one democratic senator resigned and all of the others that were present walked out of the chamber rather than cast a vote either way on this law. Look no further than recent news reports from Seattle detailing how a grown man went into a women’s locker room, undressed himself and watched young girls get dressed for swim practice. And when officials tried to get him to leave, he proclaimed: ‘the law has changed and I have a right to be here.’ See news video below. Make no mistake: if our action in keeping men out of women’s bathrooms and showers protected the life of just one child or one woman from being molested or assaulted, then it was worth it. North Carolina will never put a price tag on the value of our children. They are precious and priceless,” Sen. Bill Cook said.