North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) might claim that he hasn’t heard directly from any companies planning to leave his state over the harsh new anti-LGBT law (HB2) that sailed through the legislature in just one day last week. But just a week later, very real economic consequences are already starting to pile up.
Some 100 national companies have signed onto a letter first distributed earlier this week decrying the law. They join the several businesses that had already spoken out against it in the days immediately after it passed. Wells Fargo added to the symbolic stand on Thursday by lighting the 48-story Duke Energy Center in pink, white, and blue to celebrate International Day of Transgender Visibility.
— Equality NC (@equalitync) April 1, 2016
Likewise, several cities and states and have banned all government-funded travel to the state of North Carolina. On Friday, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) added D.C. to a growing list, which includes San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, and Portland, as well as the states of New York, Vermont, Connecticut, and Washington.
These largely symbolic actions are increasingly being buttressed by measurable economic consequences. Braeburn Pharmaceuticals was planning to build a $20 million manufacturing and research facility in Durham County, but it announced this week that it is “reevaluating our options based on the recent, unjust legislation.”
Lionsgate Entertainment said that it would continue production of its made-for-TV Dirty Dancing remake in North Carolina, but would reconsider filming future projects in the state. “We will be hard pressed to continue our relationship with North Carolina if this regressive law remains on the books,” the company said in a statement. Already, it abandoned lining up rentals and hiring for a comedy pilot, choosing instead to shoot it in Canada.
Theatre composer Stephen Schwartz is also encouraging members of the theatre community to boycott the state because of its “reprehensible and discriminatory law.” He announced this week that he and his collaborators “are acting to deny the right to any theatre or organization based in North Carolina to produce any of our shows. We have informed our licensing organizations and touring producers of this, and I’m happy to say have met with compliance and approval from them.” This means that no theatre in North Carolina will be able to legally produce Wicked, Pippin, Godspell, or Children of Eden so long as the law is on the books.
For his part, McCrory’s talking points have not changed. Even after meeting with LGBT activists on Thursday, including trans woman of color Candis Cox-Daniels, his office issued a statement reiterating his position that there “is a well-coordinated, national campaign to smear our state’s reputation after we passed a common-sense law to ensure no government can take away our basic expectations of privacy in bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.”
The law’s other primary supporters have been similarly clinging to anti-LGBT rhetoric to justify their positions. For example, Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R) launched a “Stand With McCrory” campaign page, complete with an image of an apparently cisgender man sneakily entering the women’s room. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R) has used social media to repeatedly lean on a piece by long-established bigot Frank Turek. Turek argues that sexuality and gender are simply behaviors, not identities, and thus it’s right for the law to discriminate against those behaviors.
As the backlash grows in North Carolina, pressure mounts in Mississippi, where Democratic lawmakers are trying to stall that state’s sweeping licence-to-discriminate bill. It already passed both chambers of the legislature, but a procedural vote will keep it from advancing to the governor’s desk until at least Monday. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has not said whether he will sign it or not, but did indicate last week that he doesn’t believe it to be discriminatory.
If he does sign it next week, Mississippi could face its own share of economic consequences.
A spokesperson from Mayor Bowser’s office shared Friday afternoon that the travel ban has already had an impact. According to the statement, “the District canceled the trip of five District Department of Transportation employees planning to attend the 2016 AASHTO GIS for Transportation Symposium in Raleigh, North Carolina.”
On Friday, Google Venture also announced that it would not back any companies in North Carolina until HB2 is repealed. CEO Bill Maris told the firm’s partners to “please flag any investments in NC that come through as I am not comfortable deploying dollars into startups there until the voters there fix this.”