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Response to HB 237

RALEIGH, NC – The North Carolina Senate just passed HB 237, a bill to outlaw the wearing of medical masks in North Carolina. If this bill were to become law, then there could be penalties assessed for anyone caught participating in a protest and wearing a mask in public. The North Carolina Forward Party considers this an unnecessary use of legislative power.   Under the proposed law, individuals wearing masks for health protection could face enhanced penalties if they are charged with a misdemeanor or felony while wearing the mask.

“I wore a mask to protect my wife before her surgery for breast cancer,” said North Carolina Forward Party Treasurer Lorne Davis. “If this bill becomes law, could I be charged and jailed for trying to protect her life?”

The Republican supermajority in the NC Senate likely believed this law was necessary to help the police manage protests, such as those recently seen at several universities. There could be a reasonable argument for this purpose. Even so, the legislation should include exception clauses for specific cases. Amendments were suggested to limit the law’s impact to protest situations, but the Republican majority rejected them.

We echo the statement of Republican state Rep. Erin Paré, expressing her dissent with the bill.

Every person has the freedom to wear a mask to ensure their physical health and safety if they want to. Removing the medical mask exemption provision from current state law has created confusion among the public. HB 237 also enhances penalties for people who use a mask to conceal their identity while committing a crime, which is good and important. The right thing to do here is to add back the deleted provisions regarding medical masking and give the public clarity on the issue.

For those Republicans currently leveraging government to advance a minority preference that incorrectly sees mask-wearing as political, we strongly encourage NC Republican leadership to reject such divisive tactics and instead promote evidence-based public health measures that prioritize the well-being of all citizens, irrespective of political affiliation.

Ultimately, we believe the current language used in the bill will be found to be arbitrary and capricious by courts. Therefore, the Republican leadership in the NC Senate should consider the concerns expressed by individuals like Davis and Rep. Paré.