Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who was the first to advocate for overturning Charlotte’s LGBT protections, has led this effort in the press. Unfortunately, his comments have been rife with misleading and demonstrably false claims.
Here’s a look at some of the arguments he has used to defend the law and why they just don’t hold any water.
“We are not taking away any rights.”
One of the most cited arguments defending HB2 is the claim that this law did nothing to change the status quo in North Carolina. Here’s how McCrory explained this point at a press conference Monday:
We have not taken away any rights that currently existed in any city in North Carolina — from Raleigh, to Durham, to Chapel Hill, to Charlotte. Every city and every corporation has the exact same discrimination policy this week as they had two weeks ago. There’s a very well-coordinated campaign — a national campaign — which is distorting the truth — which is frankly smearing our state in an inaccurate way — which I’m working to correct… We have not changed one policy of any business in North Carolina or one policy of any employment status of any city government or county government in North Carolina.
Though it’s technically true that Charlotte’s newly passed LGBT nondiscrimination law had not yet taken effect, there is still no way to stretch McCrory’s statement to make it true.
HB2 made it illegal for any North Carolina municipality to extend nondiscrimination protections beyond what’s provided at the state level, thus banning and voiding all LGBT protections. Charlotte was not the only city that had passed them. The law also rolls back sexual orientation and gender identity protections in the counties of Buncombe, Mecklenburg, and Orange, as well as in Ashville, Boone, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, and Raleigh. Additionally, Durham and Guilford counties, along with the cities of Bessemer City, Durham, High Point, and Winston-Salem, all had nondiscrimination protections based on just sexual orientation.
Furthermore, the University of North Carolina system, which consists of 17 campuses, also has an LGBT nondiscrimination policy it can no longer enforce. HB2 specifically bans these campuses from accommodating transgender individuals, who are now prohibited from using restrooms that don’t match their birth certificates. This impacts the system’s 13,000+ faculty, 30,000+ staff, and 250,000+ students.
The law empowers businesses to set their own policy.
In the same interview, McCrory boasted that HB2 has no impact on private businesses — indeed, they are empowered to set their own policies instead of being forced to by the state.
“I’m proud of us protecting the privacy rights of individuals and not putting burdensome regulations on businesses,” he said, “and letting them make the decision — not government make the decision.”
In fact, McCrory excoriated the media for misleading businesses about the impact of the law:
I haven’t heard them threaten to leave. This is another example of the media exaggerating. I have not had one corporation tell me that they’re threatening to leave. I’ve had many corporations re-certify their commitment to nondiscrimination and we’ve clearly stated to them that their policies do not change, and they did not know that based upon the press coverage. They assume that we were changing their own nondiscrimination ordinances, and that’s a correction you need to make through your own media communications, and I’ve made through communications. Every company is allowed to have their own nondiscrimination ordinance in North Carolina.
HB2 does not specifically govern the practices of private businesses — that much is true. But that doesn’t mean the law does not have a negative impact on the state’s businesses.
Whether they have communicated directly with McCrory or not, several businesses have already expressed concern with the law, including American Airlines, Dow Chemical, Biogen, Lowe’s, and the NBA, in addition to many tech companies, including IBM, PayPal, Google, Apple, Amazon, and Salesforce.
Some conservatives seeking to defend the law are accusing businesses of “cultural cronyism” for using their influence to change social policy. The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson wrote this week that “big businesses are using their outsized market share to make economic threats to pressure the government to do their bidding — at the expense of the common good.”
But Anderson’s hypocrisy is on grand display. In previous writing, when opposing government-enforced LGBT protections, he is quick to praise businesses. “The power of public opinion expressed in the marketplace makes unjust discrimination intolerably costly — no need for the government to weigh in,” he wrote last summer. Apparently, the market can “sort these things out” on its own, but it’s “cronyism” if they don’t align with an anti-LGBT position.
Indeed, public opinion is already expressing itself in a literal marketplace — the High Point Market, the “largest furnishings industry trade show in the world.” In a press release Monday, the showcase’s executive committee explained that “dozens of customers have contacted the High Point Market Authority to inform us that they have cancelled plans to attend the Market in April due to passage of HB2.”
“As leaders and organizers of the High Point Market, 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. Based on the reaction in just the last few days, hundreds and perhaps thousands of our customers will not attend Market this April.”
The release also notes that “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.”
The High Point Market may not be threatening to leave North Carolina, but it’s certainly promising diminishing returns because of the state’s endorsement of discrimination.
North Carolina is just like Houston.
One of McCrory’s favorite lines this week has been comparing North Carolina to Houston, where voters overturned the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in a referendum in November. The comparison has frequently included a reference to the NCAA basketball tournament, implying that there are no consequences to the law.
In an interview with NBC, for example, McCrory explained, “We have the same rights, by the way, that Houston, Texas, has — where the NCAA basketball tournament is being played this weekend. I think that tournament should be played and I hope the Tarheels win.”
Likewise, even the governor’s statement responding to the lawsuit challenging HB2 jests snarkily, “The governor looks forward to cheering for the UNC Tar Heels in the NCAA Final Four being played in Houston, a city that defeated a similar bathroom ordinance referendum last year with over 61% of the vote.”
The NCAA’s response to anti-LGBT has indeed been disappointing. OutSports editor Cyd Zeigler took aim at the organization Monday in a blistering post blaming its inaction in Houston for enabling the passage of North Carolina’s law. “When the NCAA had the opportunity to act on a government rolling back LGBT rights and protections (see: Houston), the association balked,” Zeigler wrote.
“The NCAA now stares itself in the mirror as LGBT student-athletes and coaches in North Carolina are suddenly stripped of the possibility of protections so important to their health and welfare.” Zeigler hopes the NCAA withdraws all 2017 and 2018 basketball tournament games from North Carolina and similarly commits to withholding championships from any city with anti-LGBT policies.
The NCAA’s weak resistance to anti-LGBT efforts aside, McCrory’s comparison between North Carolina and Houston still fails. HERO was an ordinance that created protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, not unlike Charlotte’s. But when voters defeated HERO, they simply blocked protections from taking effect.
North Carolina’s law goes much farther by requiring discrimination against transgender individuals in public schools, universities, and agencies. Houston’s transgender community may not be protected city-wide, but nor are they banned from accessing the appropriate restrooms in public spaces like under North Carolina’s law.
HB2 also bans cities and counties from passing their own LGBT protections. There’s nothing legally stopping Houston from considering HERO again or some other permutation of LGBT protections, but all of North Carolina’s cities are permanently banned from providing such protections — at least until the law is repealed or overturned.
Transgender rights are just political correctness.
Besides all the semantic arguments, McCrory continues to beat the drum that HB2 is just a good “common sense” law. He backs this position up by repeating the same anti-transgender fearmongering talking points that helped defeat HERO and that motivated HB2’s passage in the first place.
He attempts to sugarcoat these positions, however, with umbrage. As his response to the lawsuit insisted, “To counter a coordinated national effort to mislead the public, intimidate our business community, and slander our great state, the governor will continue to set the record straight on a common sense resolution to local government overreach that imposed new regulations on businesses that intruded into the personal lives of our citizens.”
In the NBC interview, he was far more candid about his anti-trans beliefs. “This had to do with overstepping — a government overreach forcing businesses to allow men to be in women’s or girls’ restroom or shower facilities,” he claimed. “This political correctness has gone amok.”
When reporter Janet Shamlian pushed back, McCrory doubled down. “We are too much politically correct. This political correctness in our nation has taken over common sense, and the common sense is not to have a government regulation telling a business who they allow in what restroom, or locker room, or shower facility. I’m going to let them decide.”
“We’re throwing away basic etiquette,” he claimed. “I wonder if your daughter or son was showering and all of a sudden a man walks into the locker room and says, ‘This is what I am.’ Would you want that for your child?”
Of course, Charlotte’s law, like LGBT protections in cities and states across the country, would have done nothing to allow for any inappropriate or illegal behavior in restrooms. By calling transgender women “men” and suggesting that they are somehow a threat to children, the governor is relying on ignorance and fear to support his position.
McCrory has likely only just begun to defend HB2. At a press conference Tuesday morning, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) announced that he will not defend the law in court. Cooper just happens to also be challenging McCrory for the governorship this November.
If the cases over state bans on same-sex marriage serve as a model, this means that McCrory will likely need to spend even more taxpayer money to hire outside counsel to defend against the lawsuit that was filed. The special session to pass HB2 already cost an estimated $42,000.
The fiscal impact of HB2 remains unclear, but so long as McCrory continues to attack businesses and the media while defending discrimination, the costs to the state will only rise.