Stokes County Commissioners Jimmy Walker, James Booth and Earnest Lankford voted to approve a resolution of support for HB2, a controversial North Carolina law also referred to as the “bathroom bill.”
The vote came after a public comment period during which a number of county residents spoke against both HB2 and any move for the county to officially support it, highlighting a number of ways they said the bill negatively impacted county residents.
“HB2 stole the right of every single Stokes County citizen to seek justice by suing for wrongful termination in North Carolina courts,” said Bill Sparks. “This is tyranny.”
By Foot Sports owner Jeff Beckelhimer told the board the bill, and support of it, would have a negative impact on his business.
“As a small business owner, 80 percent of my business comes from outside of this county,” he told commissioners. “If this resolution is passed I will loose 40 percent of that and I put that squarely on your shoulders.”
Beckelhimer said he would bypass talking about a number of issues he had with the bill, but could not understand how the county could support one key element of the law.
“Why in the world would you back a resolution that supports a law that takes away the rights of any local municipality to govern themselves?” he asked, adding that if the resolution was passed it would impact the attractiveness of the county to businesses, potential new residents and tourists. “The majority of people do not support this law and if anyone does not believe that then they are truly disconnected from the public. This was written and shoved down our throats in the midnight hours by a bunch of old fat white guys who are terrified of anything different.
“If you put your voice and signature behind this, you are putting a voice behind bigotry and hatred,” he added. “I would ask that the people of this county who want a future for this county, one that promotes economic growth, one that is forward thinking and not backward thinking and brings promise and hope to everyone in this county, I call on those people to rise up, take over and take control. It is time for a social and political revolution in this county. I am not talking about party versus party. I am talking about love versus hate, promise versus discouragement, and hope versus hopelessness. As much as this county has a past, more importantly it needs a future.”
Several speakers, noting the horrific mass shooting at a gay bar in Orlando, Fla., over the weekend, asked the commissioners to at the very least table the resolution.
“I think that many of us would agree that under the circumstances, any action on the resolution today would send the wrong message about the people of Stokes County,” said David Dalton.
“I was always taught that Christianity is a faith of love and inclusion and support and forgiveness,” agreed Johanna Stern. “There is a reason this is called Hate Bill 2. I do not think that it espouses anything that Stokes County wants to put out that we support, especially in light of what happened in Orlando.
Ellen Peric argued that the bill was ineffective because it did not dictate any enforcement practices or penalties.
“It is meaningless,” she said, “unless you consider its intent: to protect women and children from those who are not like us, to protect us from people we don’t understand.
“In the 1950s and 60s discrimination against African Americans was representative of the beliefs and views of the overwhelming majority of our citizenry,” she added. “It did not make it right then and it does not make this right now. Discrimination is wrong and hate will never win.”
Micheal Hylton, who is a Democratic candidate on the ballot for a commissioner’s seat this fall, asked the board to find the love within their own hearts before voting on the resolution.
“You took an oath to serve the best interests of all of Stokes County citizens, not just a majority,” he said. “Please do not do anything to create more divides and separation. Let’s move this county forward and not backward.”
Buddy Timm, who first requested the resolution supporting HB2, was the only speaker in favor of the issue.
“HB2 keeps making the news since the left disagrees with the right to discriminate in law against immoral transgender behavior, which compromises bathroom safety,” he said. “Our Creator’s character and virtue commands discrimination between the immoral and moral behaviors, our trust and position should identify with God’s position.”
He argued, as he did before the King City Council last week, that the battle was similar to that which had been fought against Communism.
“Divide and conquer is the Communist’s tool to accomplish their goal,” said Timm. “It is their tactics of ‘Jim Crow’ practices, their ‘in your face’ divide which has been successful, with accompanying threats. Their messengers have been the contradictions of common sense: the phony preachers, the phony Christians, and the phony patriots that support immorality.
“Your resolution supporting HB2 reveals the side you chose, and gives hope to morality in America,” he added. “Its passage will strengthen trust.”
Former Board Chair Ronda Jones and current Chair Leon Inman voted against the resolution.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.