Why Most WNC Towns Remain Silent About HB2

May 10, 2016

Last month, the Asheville City Council unanimously adopted a resolution opposing North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, along with numerous other municipalities, both big and small. Yet, despite the ever-growing controversy surrounding the bill, some North Carolina towns just aren’t taking a position on the matter. In fact, it seems that House Bill 2 isn’t even on their radar. So, WCQS reached out to the mayors of some of these towns to find out why.

“Our aldermen are not professional politicians and neither am I,” said Bryson City Mayor Tom Sutton. “Most of the time, these things we address just as they come up. It’s not so much a lack of concern, it’s just, I’m not sitting in a big office somewhere thinking about policy all day.”

Like the other mayors we spoke with, Sutton says that there’s been little, if any discussion about the town’s official position on House Bill 2 among local officials.

“We’re all small town people. A lot of these subjects don’t necessarily come up in day-to-day conversations, but I think our board would be very much concerned with basic human rights.

The Mayor of the Town Franklin, Bob Scott, echoed Sutton’s position on the matter, adding that while the town’s board of aldermen is by no means taking a conservative stance on HB2, the bill just doesn’t take priority for the town.

“The town of Franklin is open to diversity,” says Scott. “We represent everybody. We don’t care what their religion is, their sexual orientation, or anything, politics—we’re a non-partisan board—it just has not been an issue with us. I’m sure you could check with everyone on the board and some of us have got personal opinions, but as far as the town’s concerned, I can’t see that there has been or would be any impact on the town.”

And the town of Murphy’s Mayor Bill Hughes: “There just doesn’t seem to be any kind of strong feeling one way or the other here about it, to be honest with you, it’s just not discussed. I go around to all the coffee houses and talk to all the good ol’ boys who sit at the breakfast table and have lunch and all this, and you just don’t hear it mentioned.”

So, with agenda items like flood plain insurance programs, new city ordinances or budget proposals, the small mountain towns of Western North Carolina just don’t feel that they’re immediately affected by laws like HB2, so most of them remain neutral on the matter. Most of them…

“We’ve got two bathrooms, one for male and one for female, and there’s nothing changed that god’s put on us. A man needs to go in a man’s bathroom and a woman needs to go in a woman’s bathroom.” That’s Robbinsville Mayor Steve Hooper, who says that after openly discussing the matter of HB2 with the rest of the town board, it was agreed that the bill was adequate to the needs of the town, and that they would not oppose it. “I was born and raised here. There was no one born to be a lesbian or a gay, or whatever, they were just born male or female, that’s on their birth certificate.”