When a hen gets into the fox house, it’s difficult to imagine things turning out well for the hen.

Chris Sgro is the hen. The fox house is the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

In recent years, Sgro, 33, has been executive director and a lobbyist for Equality NC, a statewide organization working to secure equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

He is familiar with the halls of the legislature, which hasn’t always been friendly to his cause. He’s been a regular there as the General Assembly debated the constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and the law to allow magistrates and other government workers to opt out of marrying gay couples if their religious beliefs conflict with that.

But when the General Assembly convenes its short session April 25, Sgro will be a member of the 120-member state House. Guilford County Democrats picked the Greensboro resident and Democrat to finish the term of former Rep. Ralph Johnson, who died last month.

Sgro will serve only for the rest of 2016, as his name is not on the November ballot and he has no intention of being in the legislature for long.

When he arrives in Raleigh, he’ll be the only openly gay member of either the House or Senate. Sgro and his husband, Ryan Butler, were among the first gay couples married in North Carolina after same-sex marriage was legalized.

Sgro has told media members that he will work in that capacity to try to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial law approved by the General Assembly during a special session last month and quickly signed by Gov. Pat McCrory.

But don’t forget. Sgro is the hen. His power likely won’t be in his vote. He gets only one of those. House Republicans have a supermajority and 11 House Democrats voted for HB2.

Sgro’s power will be in persuasion. In a phone interview, Sgro told me that he recognizes within the current political constructs of North Carolina it seems difficult to imagine the repeal of House Bill 2. But he believes it’s possible.

Fellow legislators, he said, will benefit from hearing from someone who is personally affected by the bill. That, he believes, combined with ongoing economic development implications and protests against the legislation, “are going to move the needle significantly on a deep understanding of LGBT people, and specifically transgender North Carolinians.”

Sgro said he believed “good, fair-minded people on both sides,” including moderate Republicans and Democrats, will want to repeal the bill in the short session. He also believes that McCrory can “provide the leadership necessary” in the House and Senate to repeal the bill.

“The conversation does not begin and end with whether (Senate Leader) Phil Berger will consent to repeal,” Sgro said, referring to statements by Berger that he has no plans to change HB2 during the short session.

But this year, of course, is an election year. And any backtracking on HB2 would upset many voters in McCrory’s conservative base who fully support the law.

At the least, Sgro will represent a living, breathing face for the LGBT community in the General Assembly.

As the hen in the fox house, he hopes to persuade his adversaries to listen to and consider arguments from the other side, instead of quickly devouring him in a sea of red.

Patrick Gannon is the editor of the Insider State Government News Service in Raleigh.

(6) comments

ken leary

Please elaborate. Tell me more about how incorrigible people are, and how they will never evolve their thinking. Do you think we should repeal women's suffrage?

Mark Hayes

In answering the question of your first sentence, well all I can tell you is if you read this site on a daily basis you will come to realization some minds will never be changed on matters and issues regardless of what the government forces on those who disagree. As for the women' suffrage, that I have no issue with, I respect women as equals, I married one, had a daughter, encouraged her to stay politically involved on issues, so that pretty much eliminates me answering that request.

ken leary

It will probably stop when all the racist, homophobic, sharia driven (sorry meant fundamentalist), fearful people become marginalized. Then maybe the adults can work on solving real problems. Like lead in drinking water. My hope is that reasonable people will not agree with solutions such as your, “Some probably do deserve to be left to die” when discussing the fate of women and children in Flint, and work on fixing the problem rather than fear mongering and blaming victims.

Mark Hayes

Your hopes will never be realized, they are not achievable. Your sanctimonious and pretentious preaching should be directed at those who share your opinion, that would eliminate many.

Mark Hayes

Where is all this going to end, a law requiring business to hire a percentage of their workforce based on being gay, transsexual, bi sexual, transgender ? Will the above mentioned be required to hire a percentage of those who do not share in their lifestyle ? This is no more than the government demanding people to accept that which they do not, will not, no matter how many laws are created. How many private sector business owners will openly support laws they do not favor yet privately act upon their true feelings of opposition to those laws, finding the means to circumvent government laws and refusing to hire certain individuals, are American tax payers prepared to fund the over crowded legal system that will eventually have to pay for the court battles the government will be involved with? There are laws on the books from the 60's which have never been effective, this will be no different, people will act upon their own emotions. The sooner this government realizes it cannot control that which it has no control over, specifically ones thinking, the sooner it will cease with this Big Brother mentality and get back to doing what we pay taxes for.

Roland Kidd

Glad he is not on the ballot in Nov.

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