Open Letter to Tami Fitzgerald, Executive Director of NC Values Coalition, Concerning HB2

Dear Ms. Fitzgerald,

I read with great interest your remarks conveyed in an interview outside of a Winston-Salem courtroom concerning a recent federal hearing of the HB2 bill.

I read with greater concern that your ability to speak on platitudes is only surpassed by the circular reasoning you seek to influence others to continue to discriminate.

The recent article by Triad City Beat (https://triad-city-beat.com/2016/08/tami-fitzgerald-trans-people-use-bathroom/) features an impromptu interview with you concerning your views on HB2. What was most interesting was your exchange with Lily Carollo, a J-School student at UNC-CH.

Here is what Triad City Beat posted about that encounter.

Several reporters drifted over to get Fitzgerald’s take on the legal debate, including Lily Carollo, a journalism student at UNC-Chapel Hill who is an intern at Indy Week (our fellow alt-weekly in the Triangle).

Carollo asked Fitzgerald how she thought transgender people who have physically transitioned yet have not updated their birth certificates should handle the bathroom dilemma created by HB 2.

“I think the law offers them the opportunity to update their birth certificate once they have sex-reassignment surgery,” Fitzgerald said.

Carollo quickly personalized the question in a way Fitzgerald might not have anticipated.

“I haven’t had my birth certificate updated, but I don’t have a penis anymore,” she said. “Should I be allowed to use the women’s bathroom?”

“I think you are allowed to apply for a new birth certificate so that you can,” Fitzgerald replied.

“What do I do in the meantime though?” Carollo pressed.

“Well, I think you should go right now today to apply for that,” Fitzgerald said.

Carollo persisted.

“But it takes three months for the birth certificate to come through,” she said. “So what do I do in the meantime if I’m on campus or if I’m in a state building?”

“I don’t know,” Fitzgerald said before recovering her talking point.

“Under HB 2 you should continue and use the bathroom on your birth certificate,” she said.

Ms. Fitzgerald, those are empty answers to real questions. It seems when you are actually pressed for an explanation on your views points and why they are valid you seem to stumble.

You seemed to rely on the use of “birth certificates. “

So did the Voter ID law that was just overturned in time for the November elections. With the current ruling of the 4th Circuit Court came a strong statement concerning the deliberate use of racial motives in denying some people the right to vote. It had to do with the use of birth certificates and knowing that poorer people and older people who needed them to obtain valid ID’s would have a tough time getting them.

The very people that your coalition praises in your NC 2014 Pro-Family Scorecard as “Champions for the Family” (NCVC-2014-Pro-Family-Scorecard-Final1.pdf) voted for House Bill 589 (the Voter ID Law). In fact, all of the House of Representatives you single out to praise on the Scorecard (except only five) were sponsors of that very bill.

(Might I also add that your list of “Champions” in both the House and Senate is comprised solely of white individuals who obviously hold religious views that are close to yours and the coalition’s – Judeo-Christian.)

Is it not interesting that your coalition and those you support seem to rely so much on the birth certificate argument to validate the passing of discriminatory laws to create politically motivated solutions for problems that never existed? Voter fraud is practically nonexistent in North Carolina; Sexual assaults by transgender people is the same – practically nonexistent.

But you said in court earlier that day that it was a big problem. In another example of giving of empty answers to real questions you made a claim and then could not back it up with proof or data. As reported in the Winston-Salem Journal on August 2nd by Michael Hewlett (“Judge hearing request to halt House Bill 2 questions why legislators passed the legislation”),

“Tami Fitzgerald, president of N.C. Values and a strong supporter of House Bill 2, said there is a false narrative that men haven’t gone into women’s bathrooms dressed as women and sexually assaulted women. She said there have been 100 incidents around the country but didn’t give specifics. According to PolitiFact, there have been few incidents in which sexual predators have pretended to be transgender in order to sexually abuse women.”

You presented no specifics given for a claim that is under scrutiny to begin with. Sexual assault is already against the law.

Ironically, on the NC Values Coalition website (http://ncvalues.org/about-us/mission/), your profile as the Executive Director states that you were “Chairwoman of Vote FOR Marriage NC, the official referendum committee that successfully passed the North Carolina Marriage Amendment.” That amendment was struck down by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals as being unconstitutional. The Supreme Court followed that up with legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation. In essence, you were supporting something that was unconstitutional.

The Voter ID Law – (HB589 from 2013) that you supported was just declared invalid and in essence, unconstitutional.

And now comes HB2, which will be decided upon in the courts. However, recent court cases suggest that it is a matter of time before it is repealed. And Butch Bowers assertion that HB2 is merely a law of reaffirmation of privacy and could not really be enforced is not a strong precedent to stand upon. It is a law, like the Voter ID law, based on hypothetical situations that became gospel due to fears of others interpreting happiness in their own way.

And it’s strange that you would defend hypothetical situations such as transgender sexual assault of voter fraud when you yourself seem not to take stock in “hypothetical” situations. Allow me to refer back to the Triad City Beat article, farther down the post.

Paul Garber, a reporter with the Winston-Salem public radio station 88.5 WFDD, picked up the question and took it in a different direction.

“Look, I’m a guy and if a transgender woman wants to use the same bathroom as me, it’s not a big deal to me,” he said. “But what if a very masculine looking person with facial hair who is biologically female comes in the women’s bathroom. How would you feel about it?”

Fitzgerald hesitated, as if wary of a trap.

“You’re asking me a very hypothetical question,” she said.

Reactions from the handful of reporters hovering nearby were immediate and visceral.

“It’s a hypothetical, but entirely predictable situation, given HB 2,” Winston-Salem Journal reporter Michael Hewlett protested.

“And it’s a situation you created,” an unidentified camerawoman seethed. (Fitzgerald is not a lawmaker, but her son-in-law, Chad Barefoot, serves in the Senate.)

After getting Garber to repeat the question, Fitzgerald acknowledged, “Probably there would be some discomfort before there’s a change in the birth certificate.”

Then, back to another talking point.

“I’m more comfortable defending the right of privacy.”

You use the word “right” in discussing privacy. The word “right” comes up many times in our revered historical documents that defined our nation.  There’s the wonderful statement from the Declaration of Independence that says,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….”

I do think it right of me to say that it includes men and women despite their sexual orientation or identity. And with religious freedom (that NC Values Coalition states is a key issue with them) the word “Creator” could mean anyone’s conception of a higher power. Then how can I or anyone stand in the way of someone else’s happiness much less their need to relieve themselves?

Ms. Fitzgerald, I also noted that on the website for NC Values Coalition that there is a strong connection with Biblical teaching. “The Mission statement” says,

The mission of the North Carolina Values Coalition is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture of North Carolina from a Christian worldview.

“The Primary Strategy” states,

  • Educate and equip voters to elect to public office those who hold a Christian worldview
  • Hold elected officials accountable for anti‐faith, anti‐family, & anti‐freedom votes
  • Educate, inform, and influence NC citizens, politicians and policymakers
  • Engage pastors, churches and people of faith
  • Coalition building and networking with other like‐minded organizations to accomplish common goals and optimize resources
  • Organize and equip grassroots advocacy

In both of those excerpts you say the word “Christian.” I would like to ask if that worldview takes into account what Christ says about homosexuality and transgender people. Actually he said nothing about either one of them. He talked of love. There is the Golden Rule of “love one another as you would love yourself” (John 13:34), but other verses come to mind as well, not just from Jesus, but from his disciples and apostles.

For example there is 1 Corinthians 13:13. (And I use the NIV.)

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Galatians 5:6

“For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. All that matters is faith, expressed through love.”

Discrimination is not love Ms. Fitzgerald.

And you’re discriminating.

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