Purple State Passes Stunning Law About Mask Wearing In Public

In a significant legislative move, the North Carolina state Senate voted on Wednesday to implement a statewide ban on wearing masks in public places, a decision that aligns with party lines.

The bill, known as House Bill 237, was passed with a vote of 30 in favor and 15 against, with five senators absent from the session. The majority of support came from Republican senators who argue that the ban will aid law enforcement in identifying protesters more easily. This concern arises from recent instances where, according to supporters of the bill, protesters utilized masks to conceal their identities during a series of pro-Palestine demonstrations across the country and at several universities in North Carolina.

Additionally, this new legislation will repeal a previously established exception that permitted the public to wear masks for health and safety purposes. This exception had been in place since the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Democrats in the Senate voiced their apprehension about the implications of such a ban, especially for individuals who are immunocompromised or undergoing medical treatments like chemotherapy. State Senator Sydney Batch, a Democrat and cancer survivor, shared a personal testimony about how wearing masks played a crucial role in protecting her health during her cancer treatment. She, along with other Democrats, proposed amendments to the bill that would allow for the continued use of masks for legitimate health concerns while still empowering law enforcement to address masked protesters. However, these amendments were not accepted.

Historically, North Carolina’s laws against public masking date back to the 1950s, initially aimed at diminishing the influence of the Ku Klux Klan.

Senator Buck Newton, a Republican, responded to these concerns by suggesting that law enforcement would exercise discretion appropriately, recalling that before the pandemic, there were no widespread incidents of individuals being penalized for wearing masks in places like Walmart.

Furthermore, under the new bill, if someone is arrested while protesting and wearing a mask, the legal classification of their offense would increase, escalating either a misdemeanor or felony to a more severe category.

The bill now moves to the desk of Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat. While Governor Cooper has the power to veto the bill, the current Republican supermajority in the state legislature could override any veto.

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