As election season comes to a close and we contend with the outcomes on a state and local level, we turn our attention to the 2023 legislative session, which will begin in January. In 2022, the ACLU of NC faced a tumultuous session, with both significant wins and difficult challenges. From the strategies legislators used to attempt to curtail civil liberties, we can make some predictions for legislative fights we may see in 2023.
First and foremost, anti-choice legislators have promised to attempt to further restrict abortion access. Reproductive rights were a major oppositional front in 2022. Lawmakers attempted to push through multiple anti-abortion bills. One of them, HB 453, passed in both the House and the Senate, but Governor Cooper vetoed it. Thanks in part to our determined advocacy and that of our partners, anti-choice lawmakers did not have enough votes to override his veto.
In a July interview with the News & Observer, Senate leader Phil Berger said that he remains “committed to protecting the unborn and upholding the sanctity of life.” According to the same article, House speaker Tim Moore said “his personal stance is that when there is a heartbeat, that’s a child.” Based on these statements and others, we know that lawmakers will push for further restrictions on abortion. Additionally, due to election outcomes, anti-abortion legislators may be able to override a veto if they play their cards right.
We may also see a renewed push for anti-LGBTQ legislation in 2023. States across the country have seen an upswing in these types of bills over the last several years, including restricting trans students’ participation in sports, limiting access to gender-affirming health care, and targeting LGBTQ students in education. We saw two of these bills last session here in NC. While neither became law, legislators used this opportunity to stir up homophobic and transphobic rhetoric. We may see further attempts to target LGBTQ youth in 2023.
Particularly in light of the recent anti-LGBTQ shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, we are well aware of the real-world violence that furthering this kind of hate and discrimination can lead to. Along with working to prevent harmful bills from passing the legislature, we will work on all fronts to counter misinformation and anti-LGBTQ narratives.
With the rise of discussions around censorship and school curricula, we expect to see another push for legislation restricting classroom subjects and targeting critical race theory. In 2022, Governor Cooper vetoed a bill that would have limited educators’ ability to discuss topics related to racism, sexism, white supremacy, diversity, and equity with their students. Since it received such support in the legislature, we expect to see more of this conversation in the spring.
Additionally, last session we saw a tough fight against anti-immigration legislation. The General Assembly introduced a bill that would have allowed people to sue “sanctuary” municipalities for allegedly obstructing federal immigration laws, which did not pass. They did pass SB 101, which would have required local law enforcement to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Governor Cooper vetoed the bill, but we expect to see similar legislation come up in the 2023 session.
Finally, in the wake of the 2022 election, in which people with past felony convictions were eligible to vote for the first time in North Carolina, we expect to see attempts to curtail voting rights. The legislature introduced several bills last session targeting election access, one of which (SB 326) was passed and vetoed by Governor Cooper.
No matter what the General Assembly introduces, the ACLU of North Carolina will continue advocating for your civil rights and liberties, in the legislature, in the courts, and in the streets. We hope you’ll join us in solidarity.