It’s been a month now since North Carolina lawmakers called a special session and passed HB2, a sweeping bill that discriminates against transgender people’s bathroom use and bans LGBT nondiscrimination protections across the state. Despite a month of economic backlash and a growing protest movement — 54 protesters were arrested for a sit-in as the legislature reconvened this week — HB2’s proponents are as eager to promote discrimination as they were when they first passed it.
Since advancing his duplicitous executive order, which actually changed none of HB2’s problems, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has continued to argue that there’s nothing wrong with the law. His latest argument is that the backlash against the law is actually a coordinated political vendetta against him personally.
Resorting to victim-blaming, McCrory told the New York Times this week that the city of Charlotte is actually responsible for all the consternation in the state because it went and passed LGBT nondiscrimination protections. If the city hadn’t taken a stand for LGBT equality, he explained, he wouldn’t have been “forced” to support a state law overriding those protections.
He proceeded to explain that the Human Rights Campaign, an organization he has previously had trouble identifying by name, had orchestrated the entire backlash to give Democrats an edge in the gubernatorial race. Apparently using the word “Orwellian” twice in his interview with the Times, he warned, “You’ve got to be politically naïve if you think this is not coordinated by a very effective — a very effective — group.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Apodaca (R) is unfazed by the backlash. As the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, he has made clear that the chamber will not consider the HB2 repeal introduced by Democrats this week.
Not only does Apodaca want to keep the law, he wants to enshrine in it the state’s constitution. He told WLOS News this week, “If it were up to me, I’d just put it out to a vote of the people. Let them decide what they want to do. Let’s put it on the ballot and get it over with once and for all. If the majority wants this, fine. If they don’t, fine.”
While Apodaca seems to simply be dismissing the backlash, Sen. Buck Newton (R) seems to be embracing it. Newton is the Republican candidate for state attorney general — a position being vacated because current Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) is challenging McCrory in the governor’s race. At a rally this week, Newton reiterated the claim that HB 2 is necessary for the safety and privacy of women and children:
Now it’s been said that there are many, many, many, many more sexual predators on the sex offender list than there are transgender people,” he said. “And we can all feel sympathy for folks who are having difficult times, because we all know folks that have a difficult time, whether folks are struggling with drugs, are struggling with their marriages, figuring out what it is that they’re supposed to be doing in life. We can all have sympathy for that. But that does not mean that we should expose our wives and our sisters and our children to the sexual predators in the bathrooms.
Newton embraced that his opponent, Sen. Josh Stein (D), is calling HB2 “Buck’s Bill,” proclaiming, “Bring it on. I am not worried about how I am judged by some people at another rally. I am worried about how I am judged by the man upstairs. And if I can’t win this election because I ran HB 2, then so be it.
He ended his remarks by telling the audience to, “Go home, tell your friends and family who had to work today what this is all about and how hard we must fight to keep our state straight.”
Besides the fact that plenty of transgender people identify as straight, a Williams Institute analysis of the 2010 Census found that there were 18,309 same-sex couples living in North Carolina, 3,380 of whom are raising children.
While these Republican leaders double down on discrimination, the economic backlash against the state continues. This week, the W. K. Kellogg foundation announced it was cancelling a four-day conference originally scheduled for August in Ashville, delaying it until December so that it can be held in a different state “where policies and practices are inclusive and protections against discrimination are upheld for all people.” The conference would have brought 500 people to the city and had an estimated $1.5 million economic impact.
The travel boycotts are also starting to hit local small businesses. For example, a bicycle tour company in Ashville reports that inquiries are down about a third since HB2 passed. Shish Kebab, a restaurant near the Raleigh Convention Center, loses 10–20 percent of its business when events at the center are canceled. Raleigh will lose about $3.5 million because of four canceled conferences.
But while even Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan has rebuked HB2 as discriminatory, those responsible for it refuse to even humor the premise that there’s anything wrong with it.