The annual gathering is slated for North Carolina, and what some are going to do.
What is SUUSI doing about HB2?
Many people in our SUUSI community and in the larger Unitarian Universalist world have expressed concern about the recent passage of HB2, a North Carolina law that mandates discriminatory practices towards transgender and gender-non-conforming people, overturns local non-discrimination laws across North Carolina enacted to protect LGBT people, and effectively repeals state-level non-discrimination laws altogether.
The SUUSI Board has issued a strong statement condemning HB2. And yet we understand that a statement is not enough. Given that SUUSI’s new home is in North Carolina, we find ourselves called to respond forcefully to this law and to join the work of getting it repealed and/or overturned. We are convinced that our presence in North Carolina as religious people opposed to the types of discrimination that HB2 represents can be a positive force for justice in North Carolina and throughout the Southeast.
As the SUUSI director, I thought it would be wise to update all who are concerned about HB2 as to what SUUSI is doing and working on.
First, we have been in contact with our new hosts at Western Carolina University to ensure that SUUSI participants, no matter their gender identity or expression, will be safe and welcome on campus. Our hosts have been gracious and kind, and have expressed their commitment to working with SUUSI to ensure that HB2 does not affect our participants negatively. The Conferences Director at WCU assured us this: “This legislation is by no means a reflection of most of the people of the state of North Carolina. It certainly is not a reflection of how anyone will be treated on the campus of Western Carolina University. Western Carolina University will continue to welcome all groups and treat everyone with the utmost respect and dignity.”
Next, we are reaching out to local organizations to offer our assistance and our voices in their work on behalf of LGBT people in Western North Carolina. We have offered our willingness to engage in public religious witness against HB2, but will not plan any such witness if transgender people in the Cullowhee community feel that it would make them less safe. We have offered also to help raise funds for their work. A list of organizations to which you might consider making donations is at the end of this letter.
We have also pledged to join the fight against HB2 in the courts. It is clear to many legal experts that the first part of HB2, regarding transgender people and bathrooms, is blatantly in conflict with Federal law, and is probably unconstitutional. A recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on a case involving a law in Virginia backs up this opinion. At its most recent meeting, the SUUSI Board pledged $2000 from SUUSI 2016 to the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice’s fund for legal expenses in challenging HB2.
We are trying our best to reduce the economic benefit of SUUSI to North Carolina, and to let NC government officials know that their state is losing revenue because of HB2. Toward that end, SUUSI Core Staff traveling to Western NC for our June meeting will fly in and out of Atlanta, Georgia. We will rent cars there and fill them up on the Georgia side of the GA-NC border, where we will also stock up on supplies and snacks. We are compiling resources for SUUSI participants to help them spend less money in North Carolina, and we will collect receipts at SUUSI to show NC officials the money that could have been spent in their state. As we understand that many people’s travel necessitates long routes through NC, we are trying to compile a list of businesses that have explicitly opposed HB2, so that we might funnel our travel dollars to them. We expect that this will also include a list of businesses that have declared their bathrooms open to all.
Finally, we are in conversation with UUA staff about making SUUSI a key place to disseminate resources for people to fight transphobic and anti-LGBT legislation in their home states. As you know, NC’s HB2 is the first of what could be many such laws in the Southeast, and we would like to leverage SUUSI’s regional attendance to make sure that such bills can be stopped wherever they are proposed.
SUUSI takes seriously our role as a religious entity newly located in North Carolina, and we take HB2 seriously as well. While we have committed to holding our conference in North Carolina, we have also committed to engaging in opposition to this odious law. We hope that you will join us in gathering on the side of love this July.
Yours in Faith,
Rev. Dr. Michael Tino, Director