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Rep. Chris Millis, HB2 Sponsor: Protections Against Discrimination Don't Cover Transgender People

Representative Chris Millis
Representative Chris Millis

Last week, three more plaintiffs joined a lawsuit that claims North Carolina’s House Bill 2 violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.  But WHQR’s Isabelle Shepherd reports that a sponsor of the bill, state Representative Chris Millis, does not think federal protections against discrimination cover transgender people.

In a special session last month, the North Carolina legislature passed House Bill 2.  The Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act has come to be known as the “Bathroom Bill” because it requires people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate.  HB2 also instituted a statewide nondiscrimination statute and blocked local governments from passing anti-discrimination ordinances of their own.  Opponents of the bill say the nondiscrimination protections do not go far enough, as sexual orientation and gender identity are not included.

Representative Chris Millis says the bill has been misrepresented.  He says federal and state laws are responsible for protecting against discrimination based on immutable characteristics – but he’s not convinced gender identity falls under that umbrella: 

"In the past, in federal law and in state law, it’s been established that we’re talking about protecting against discrimination on immutable characteristics, what an individual actually is. When you talk about the claim of gender identity and gender expression, my question is that, how do we more or less just only exclusively protect discrimination for gender identity and gender expression? Why is it not open beyond that? I mean, other individuals may identify as a different age, other individuals may identify as something other than human. I mean, where do we draw the line?"

Chadwick Roberts, a professor of gender studies at UNCW, says that’s an unfair comparison:

"Unlike a lot of the other things on the list that he used, gender identity has been for the past fifty or sixty years a subject of inquiry for psychologists and they have established that gender identity disorder—or gender dysphoria as it is now called—is a clinical diagnosis. It is a medically-recognized condition."

Millis says local governments are free to pass broader nondiscrimination policies for their own employees, and private businesses maintain the right to expand their policies as well.