More than 50 people were arrested Monday night at the North Carolina state capitol in a protest of the state’s new law curtailing LGBT protections — a protest organized in a town hall meeting last week at Raleigh’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.
The Alliance of Baptists congregation encouraged participation in a day of action against House Bill 2, a law passed in a single-day session March 23 and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory overturning a Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.
“It’s a hate bill,” Pullen Memorial Pastor Nancy Petty described the legislation in a discussion of the faith community’s response to HB 2 on WUNC radio April 22. “It seeks to demonize a specific group of people that are already marginalized in our society.”
Pullen Memorial Baptist Church has a long history of advocacy on matters of social justice. The congregation came early to the now controversial issue of LGBT equality, getting kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention for endorsing unqualified acceptance of gay and lesbian Christians in 1992.
House Democrats filed legislation Monday to repeal HB 2, though a lack of Republican support makes it unlikely to pass. On Wednesday Republican leaders suggested putting the issue up to a vote as an amendment to the state constitution, similar to a ban on same-sex marriage adopted by voters in 2012 that was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in last year’s landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision declaring marriage a fundamental right.
Supporters of House Bill 2 also held a rally April 25, disputing claims that the bill is discriminatory.
Mark Creech, an ordained Southern Baptist minister who heads the statewide Christian Action League, denounced Christians who “would interpret the greatest commandment to mean that women and young girls should be forced to undress or shower in the presence of men.”
Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte and past president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said any economic loss the state suffers as a result of the controversy “must be placed squarely at the feet of Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and the members of the Charlotte City Council who voted for [the ordinance] in the beginning.”
Petty, who is a lesbian, said she thinks “biology is much more complicated” than defenders of House Bill 2 try to argue.
“We know that people are born and assigned a gender at birth, whether that is the gender of their birth or not,” she said in the radio interview. “We can’t reduce the conversation around gender identity and gender assignment to what’s on your birth certificate; what did somebody write down on your birth certificate the day you were born?”