On March 23, North Carolina lawmakers proposed and passed a set of “anti-LGBTQ” laws in just 24 hours.
Presented under the guise of a statewide “non-discrimination” ordinance, House Bill 2 (HB2) has been perceived as a ploy to legalize discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
By outlawing discrimination based exclusively on race, religion, color, national origin and sex, HB2 makes it impossible for victims of sexual orientation-based discrimination to sue. It also legally requires students and government officials to use the restroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate, as opposed to the one with which they identify.
Finally, it trumps all local non-discrimination laws, essentially setting the standard for LGBTQ rights in the entire state.
“It’s one of the most extreme, anti-LGBT bills we’ve seen yet,” said Sarah McBride of the Center for American Progress in an interview with North Carolina-based INDY week.
“The North Carolina legislature should be focusing on creating jobs and expanding opportunity for everyone, not engaging in legislative bullying that hurts kids and families and harms the public image of the state.”
But big businesses aren’t having it…
The LGBTQ community in North Carolina has found an ally in corporate America.
Dozens of businesses have since spoken out against the bill, voicing their public disapproval via social media, open letters and public statements.
While some businesses have simply condemned North Carolina lawmakers, others have begun boycotting the state, suspending future projects there and disaffiliating themselves with the discriminatory rhetoric as a whole. See their statements below:
“Production on ‘Six’ is already under way, however we will not consider North Carolina for any new productions.” – As told to Variety.
“On behalf of our creative partners and colleagues who made commitments to shoot in North Carolina prior to this bill being signed, we join the growing coalition of businesses that hope to see this act repealed.” – As told to Variety.
“The NBA is dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for all who attend our games and events. We are deeply concerned that this discriminatory law runs counter to our guiding principles of equality…and do not yet know what impact it will have on our ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte.” – NBA’s Twitter.
“We’ve been steadfast in our efforts to eliminate discrimination against the LGBTQ community – including through our vocal opposition to Prop 8, our filing of legal briefs in opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act…and by drawing attention to the issue globally through various international campaigns.” – Google’s Twitter.
Others, like High Point Market, a North Carolina-based company that organizes furniture trade shows, warned lawmakers of the state’s impending financial doom via press release:
We feel an obligation to inform the public and our government leaders in Raleigh of the significant economic damage that HB2 is having on the High Point Market and on the North Carolina economy. According to an economic impact study conducted by Duke University in 2013, the High Point Market is the largest economic event in the State of North Carolina each year. The Market has an annual economic impact of $5.38 billion and generates over 600,000 visitor days to the state each year. The Market and the home furnishings industry in North Carolina are responsible for over 37,000 jobs in our great state.
Concern over HB2’s economic impact has also trickled down to the travel and tourism industries, where business owners are anxiously awaiting the summer travel season in trepidation.
“In terms of real financial impact, that remains to be seen. It’s just happened, and there’s this incredulity: [Legislators] really did that? What year is this?” said Jim Muth in an interview with Citizen Times. Muth is the co-owner of the Beaufort House Inn and vice chairman of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority.
“I’m hoping that if anything, people realize that [HB2] is not consistent with who the people of this community are. It gives North Carolina a bad name.”
All eyes on the Tar Heel state
Lawmakers in Georgia also received backlash from businesses after passing a similar “religious freedom” bill earlier this week. In this case, businesses captured a win for the LGBTQ community, prompting governor Nathan Deal to veto the bill after drawing the ire of national corporations.
North Carolina, on the other hand, has chosen to address America’s concerns in a five-minute YouTube video.
The video features Gov. Pat McCrory, who explains HB2 as legislation “protecting men, women and children when they use a public restroom, shower or locker room. That is an expectation of privacy that must be honored and respected.”
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is singing a different tune, referring to the laws as a “national embarrassment” and refusing to defend the bathroom law in federal court, according to CBS News.
Cooper also acknowledged the backlash from big businesses, commenting that the laws will “set North Carolina’s economy back” if they aren’t repealed.
Whether North Carolina will follow suit or stick to its guns still remains to be seen – but America is definitely watching. An LGBTQ victory in Georgia only turns the spotlight on the Tar Heel state, whose YouTube video has, for all intents and purposes, failed to serve as a sufficient response.
On the bright side, Mr. McCrory seems to understand that a problem exists, giving us a glimmer of hope that they’ll follow through with positive social change.
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Header image: David Silverman / Getty