Video of the Jan. 20 encounter showed Pat McCrory being chased by a small pack of demonstrators outside the Capital Hilton Hotel. The protest appeared to have been motivated by McCrory’s support of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill” that prohibits transgender people from using public restrooms that best align with their gender identity. In a clip of the video that can be viewed above, one of the protesters slams McCrory as an “anti-gay bigot.”
In the wake of the protest, a North Carolina senator has announced plans to introduce legislation that would make it a crime to “threaten, intimidate, or retaliate” state officials, The Charlotte Observer reports. “I will also urge my colleagues to take other appropriate steps to guarantee the personal safety of Gov. McCrory by all necessary means,” Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte) wrote in a post on his website. “Because lines are being crossed.”
Bishop, who was one of the sponsors of House Bill 2, deemed the protesters “a chanting mob” and “ubiquitous leftist rioters” in an interview with The News & Observer, and questioned whether the participants had “stalked” McCrory ahead of the confrontation. If Bishop’s proposed law passes, offenders could face up to five years in prison.
However, the move was quickly denounced by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Sarah Gillooly, who is the ACLU’s state policy director, told The News & Observer that the protesters were well within their First Amendment rights when they approached McCrory in Washington, D.C. last week.
“People’s right to criticize politicians – whether in a newspaper, at a meeting, or on a public street – is the very heart of what the First Amendment protects,” she said. “Everyone deserves protection from violence, but politicians who run for and serve in public office shouldn’t get special treatment to shield them from criticism.”
On paper, Bishop’s sentiment seems fair ― we’d love for McCrory to be able to have a professional conversation around these types of issues without hostility. Still, the senator, who slammed the “radical transgender agenda” when House Bill 2 sparked a national backlash, should probably take his own words into consideration before advising others on how to use theirs.
For the latest in LGBTQ politics, don’t miss the Queer Voices newsletter.