Commentary: North Carolina HB 2 –The ghost of Jesse HelmsAround the Nation, Commentary, Online Only, Top Highlights Saturday, April 30th, 2016
Contributor Note: July 19, 1994, Sen. Jesse Helms, in a fiery speech recorded by C-SPAN and The Congressional Record, moved to fire Mr. Patterson from his US government job for “promoting the gay agenda” in the federal workplace.
Gov. Pat McCrory responded to the call of North Carolinians when he signed HB 2 into law. He also responded to the ghost of North Carolina’s long serving GOP US Sen. Jesse Helms.
I identify as a Republican. I am a paid life member of the Republican Party. I wholeheartedly believe in employment and legal protections for LGBT people as I have seen the economic misery in the lives of LGBT friends and families.
While working as an agricultural diplomat in the Clinton administration I supported the administration’s federal workplace initiative to fight discrimination against my LGBT colleagues. This work became a part of my employment. The position description is a part of the Congressional Record for July 19, 1994.
When Sen. Helms read the position description and learned of my work to promote workplace diversity in the federal government, he considered my work prohibited political activity. Using government resources to fight employment discrimination against LGBT workers amounted to waste of government resources to Sen. Helms and he moved to fire me to stop the waste.
Helms became so outraged he called me a “pervert” in The Congressional Record and the Q-word and F-word on the campaign trail. It was a tough time for me and I learned firsthand of the misery my LGBT colleagues experienced and, sadly, continue to experience.
HB 2, a long and complex bill, contains a provision that requires people in North Carolina to use public restrooms corresponding to their sex at birth rather than gender identity. This transphobic bill has drawn national and international outrage by corporate, government and political sources.
As a Republican I was proud GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and John Kasich stepped forward to reject the politics behind HB 2. I also applaud those North Carolina Republicans who have rejected the bill.
My deeply held Christian faith tells me everyone needs to work to support themselves, their families and their churches. Likewise, my deeply held political faith in the Republican Party tells me people should be free to work for the same reasons. Workplace discrimination forces people to lives of personal misery and economic dependency on poorly managed government programs.
Americans are free to choose where to work and for whom. Employers and employees need to be freed from the politics of workplace stigma due to a person’s sexuality.
After 20 years, I bare no grudge toward Sen. Jesse Helms. I wish him peace. He and I, though in the same political party and from the Deep South, did not see eye to eye on LGBT rights. His views on LGBT people were based on the prevailing views of his time that we were all sick criminals and LGBT groups made little or no effort to help him alter his views. As a result, he saw no reason to change with his times and his political legacy suffers in this regard.
In his 1994 speech in The Congressional Record, Sen. Helms said “we are at the crossroads of twisted values” in our Nation. In 2016 North Carolina is at a political and economic crossroads. I believe Sen. Helms would want the state’s economy to continue to grow and for North Carolinians to prosper. To do that HB 2 should be repealed.
Contributor Jim Patterson is a writer and speaker based in California and Washington DC. JEPCapitolHill@gmail.com
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