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04/24/2017 12:41 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2017

Are Some Democrats Going Soft On LGBTQ Rights In The Age Of Trump?

The Democratic Governors Association may be having a conference in North Carolina.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people across the country were appalled and angered when Roy Cooper, the newly elected Democratic governor of North Carolina, shoved LGBTQ rights aside shortly after an election in which LGBTQ activists, in North Carolina and beyond, helped him very narrowly win. And now we may be seeing Democratic governors across the country join him in this effort. Karen Ocamb reports in an illuminating piece in the LA Blade that the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), in a move that would be a slap in the face to LGBTQ people, may be meeting in North Carolina

For the past few months, the Democratic Governors Association (DGA)—an organization operating separate from but under the auspices of the National Democratic Committee—has been planning a policy conference in North Carolina, according to a very reliable source with knowledge of the action.

Apparently the planning started after a former staffer for newly elected North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper joined the DGA. The source did not know if the conference was a counter-measure to the backlash from such prominent LGBT organizations as the Human Rights Campaign, Equality North Carolina and Equality California over Cooper’s “compromise” with conservative state Republicans to “repeal” the transphobic HB2 law in order to appease business boycotters such as the NCAA.

The fake repeal of HB2 negotiated with Republicans, and surely with big business, was an outrage. The law that replaced it still doesn’t allow for LGBT rights protections until 2020 and allows the state to regulate where transgender people go to bathroom. But because it was promoted as a “repeal” of HB2, the NCCA announced the end of its boycott and a return to North Carolina, which will have a big influence on other sports programs and businesses in making similar decisions. As I wrote, it was an an example how LGBTQ can easily be abandoned by everyone

And now we may be seeing that play out with the national Democratic Party and Democratic governors if this conference is allowed to happen. Many Democratic governors banned official travel to North Carolina for state employees after HB2. As Ocamb notes, both Washington and California have reiterated that the fake repeal of HB2 and the new law doesn’t change that, and the bans are still in place. She contacted the office of Washington governor Jay inslee, who is on the executive committee of the DGA. There was no response about the possible North Carolina conference but a staffer did tell her that “Inslee signed a renewed travel ban to North Carolina and therefore it was unlikely that the governor would violate state law to travel to the conference.”

That’s encouraging, but the fact that her source is so certain and that Ocamb could not get any response on the conference from executive committee members nor from the DGA’s communications office means there has likely been some discussion happening. Democrats and Democratic organizations, like many business entities and others, may be watching and waiting to see how the supposed “compromise” on HB2 plays out and where the community will fall in accepting it or rejecting it and how others, like the NCAA, responded.

That’s why it’s imperative that activists send a message to the DGA. In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election as president we saw too many Democrats and progressive activists saying it was time to drop “identity politics” and reach out to white working class voters who might feel resentful of minorities. It’s not only terrible strategy, depressing the base of the Democratic Party, but it smacks of bigotry and of asking people to allow for discrimination and hate. 

That’s what Roy Cooper did, and if we don’t make a lot of noise, we may now see other Democratic governors and other prominent Democrats doing the same thing.

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