North Carolina bill creates controversy

Columnist Misha Herbert.

On Wednesday, Pat McCrory, governor of North Carolina, signed a bill that denies the state’s cities and counties the ability to pass their own anti-discrimination laws, as Charlotte, Raleigh and many more have done for years.

In place of these individual rulings, the state passed a broad-sweeping standard for anti-discrimination, which happens to leave out sexual orientation and gender identity as viable criteria for discrimination.

 

By allowing the passage of the House Bill 2—or simply HB2— North Carolina has not only permitted the discrimination of the state’s 250,000 LGBT adults, it’s encouraging it.

More and more, corporations and big businesses are exercising their power to take a stand on social responsibility issues like this—and it’s working. Following the passing of the anti-LGBT law, over 80 tech CEOs and executives wrote an open letter to Governor McCrory to voice their disappointment in the Tar Heel State.

“This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development,” wrote the collective, “we strongly urge you...to repeal this law in the upcoming legislative session.”

Big businesses aren’t the only source of rising resistance to this suppressive bill. Almost immediately following the passing of the new law, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that his office will not be defending HB2, which he calls a “national embarrassment.”

“It will set North Carolina’s economy back if we don’t repeal it,” said Cooper, “The threats to our economy will grow darker the longer this law stays in effect.”

Attorney General Cooper’s economic concerns aren’t unwarranted. North Carolina’s financial future is shaping up to be very similar to that of another state: Indiana.

This time last year, Indiana passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which essentially accomplished the same thing as HB2. The reaction was not good. Within days, companies like Apple, Salesforce, and sports leagues like the NBA took their concerns public, with many cancelling expansion and travel plans to the state.

The RFRA, which is the closest comparison there is to NC’s HB2, was amended within a week to include language protecting sexual orientation and gender identity from discrimination. Still, according to Chris Gahl, Vice President of Marketing & Communications for Visit Indy,  the convention and visitors’ bureau, the effects of RFRA are devastating.

“Since April 2015,” Says Gahl, “Indianapolis has lost more than $60 million in future convention business as a result of the RFRA controversy.”

Let’s hope that North Carolina wakes up to reality soon, before it suffers the same fate.