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Online Extra: Gays Across America: NC again in running for NCAA games

by Seth Hemmelgarn

California Legislative LGBT Caucus Chair Evan Low<br>authored the state's travel ban law.
California Legislative LGBT Caucus Chair Evan Low
authored the state's travel ban law.  

The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Tuesday lifted its ban on holding championships in North Carolina, just days after Governor Roy Cooper (D) signed a bill repealing House Bill 2, the anti-trans bathroom law.

The NCAA said it did so "reluctantly," and the move allows the organization to consider bids to host championship games in the Tar Heel State, a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union said.

The new law, House Bill 142, "does nothing to guarantee that LGBT people will be protected from discrimination, and, as the NCAA's own statement acknowledges, the rights of trans student-athletes, coaches, and fans in particular remain in legal limbo."

The organization, which governs college athletics, said in a statement that the law's replacement in North Carolina had "minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment," the New York Times reported.

Before the NCAA's decision, California's Legislative LGBT Caucus had asked it to keep championship games out of states that have anti-gay laws.

"It's our understanding that you are selecting 2018-2022 championship sites this week,' the Golden State's eight out LGBT lawmakers said in their March 30 letter. "... We respectfully request that you do not schedule championship sites in North Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Hosting NCAA games in states with policies that discriminate against LGBT people not only places your players, spectators, and staff at risk, it sends the message that you condone the hateful policies they propagate."

NCAA spokespeople haven't responded to the Bay Area Reporter's requests for comment.

The association pulled its 2016-2017 championship games out of North Carolina after that state enacted House Bill 2, which prohibits transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender identity and bars cities from protecting LGBTs against discrimination.

Cooper has been criticized for signing into law HB 142, which was marketed as a repeal of HB 2 but virtually leaves the anti-LGBT state law unchanged.

"HB 142 continues to enshrine LGBT discrimination in North Carolina's laws and is totally unacceptable," said Rick Zbur, executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Equality California in a news release. "It is not a repeal â€" it's HB 2.0, and we're deeply disappointed that NCAA leadership would even consider that this so-called compromise comes anywhere close to removing discrimination from North Carolina laws."

California's LGBT legislators noted in their letter that caucus Chair Assemblyman Evan Low's (D-Campbell) Assembly Bill 1887, which recently became law, bans state-funded travel to states that have anti-LGBT laws.

Besides North Carolina's discriminatory law, the legislators pointed to Kansas' Senate Bill 175, which allows campus-based student groups to prohibit LGBT members; Mississippi's House Bill 1523, which lets businesses discriminate against LGBTs; and Tennessee's Senate Bill 1556, which allows therapists to refuse to serve LGBTs.

"For the same reasons you chose to move the 2016-2017 championships away from North Carolina, we request that you hold all states accountable for their discrimination against LGBT people," California's LGBT caucus members wrote. "We must take steps to ensure everyone who participates in the NCAA games is safe and free from discrimination."

In a March 23 news release, just a few days before Cooper signed HB142 into law, NCAA officials noted their opposition to HB 2 because of its impact on "local communities' ability to assure a safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere" for participants and spectators.

"Absent any change in the law, our position remains the same regarding hosting current or future events" in North Carolina, officials stated, adding that once the organization selects sites for the 2018-2022 championships, "those decisions are final and announcement of all sites will be made on April 18."

 

ACLU supports transgender Pennsylvania student

Trans Pennsylvania student Aidan DeStefano

The ACLU and the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a legal motion Monday (April 3) to defend the Boyertown Area School District's practice of letting students use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. Opponents of the district's practice recently filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn it. The case centers around Aidan DeStefano, a transgender Boyertown student whose use of male facilities sparked at least one complaint.

"Transgender students just want what everyone else wants, to be accepted for who we are," said DeStefano in an ACLU news release. "Reversing the practices that have allowed me and other trans kids to thrive at school would be devastating."

Jason Landau Goodman of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, which is a coalition of LGBT youth leaders and groups, stated, "Schools that foster inclusive environments for all students, including transgender youth, should be commended, not sued."

In a statement posted to the school district's website, Superintendent Richard H. Faidley said, "The BASD is firmly committed through our words and actions to treating every student, and member of our community with respect, dignity, and sensitivity in accordance with all applicable laws."

"Contrary to the allegations" in the lawsuit, school officials "offered the student-plaintiff reasonable and appropriate alternatives when he voiced opposition to changing in a designated male locker room being used by a transgender student," Faidley said. "We also discussed those options with his guardians, explaining that at the time we were following the law of the land. Even though the federal government's position has changed since then, we are now guided by a recent federal court ruling in a Pennsylvania case, and await additional guidance from the state of Pennsylvania."

Faidley was referring to the anti-LGBT Trump administration recent actions to rescind guidance by former President Barack Obama that schools should allow trans people to use restrooms and other facilities that match their gender identity.

"As our nation struggles to balance the rights of individuals and groups regarding this challenging but very real issue, we ask all students, parents and community members to treat each other with the same degree of respect, dignity, and sensitivity," Faidley said.

Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, stated, "The Boyertown Area School District did the right thing in affirming and respecting their students' gender identity. To foster a positive learning environment, students need an atmosphere that is supportive and respectful of who they are. Boyertown did that and we intend to defend that practice in the interests of our clients."

 

Gays Across America is a column addressing LGBTQ issues nationwide. It runs most Tuesdays. Please submit comments or column ideas to Seth Hemmelgarn at (415) 875-9986 or s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com .

 

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