fresh voices from the front lines of change







Governor Pat McCrory’s sleight of hand won’t fix North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law, save his political career, or keep his state from hemorrhaging jobs and money. If it isn’t repealed, the state might find itself literally “out of business.”

To hear Republican North Carolina governor Pat McCrory tell it, not long ago the state legislature convened in a special session — at a $42,000 cost to tax payers — to pass House Bill 2, a law that didn’t really change anything. And all because the city of Charlotte passed a non-discrimination ordinance including sexual orientation and gender identity, which prohibited discrimination against LGBT people in public accommodations. The legislature took just 12 hours to introduce, debate and pass a bill that effectively rolled back the Charlotte ordinance by prohibiting cities from passing nondiscrimination ordinances that surpassed state and federal non-discrimination laws. Along the way, they Republican-dominated legislature threw in language preventing states from raising minimum wages, and stopping citizens from suing for discriminatory practices.

Now, McCrory wants to appear to be making changes to the law, to ensure that it doesn’t do what he’s claimed all along it didn’t. McCrory has now issued an executive order to address what he calls concerns over “fairness,” in which McCrory affirms that the state is committed to “administering and implementing” all state laws fairly, and “without unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, genetic information, or disability.”


Sounds good, right? The problem is that North Carolina has no state law, nor is there any federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Therefore such discrimination is not “unlawful,” because there is no law against it. Wrong and odious it may be, but it’s nice and legal. HB2 ensures that, and McCrory’s executive order does nothing to change that. The executive order calls on state lawmakers to repeal the part of the law prohibiting state employees from suing the state for discrimination, but that’s about it.

Worse, McCrory’s executive order upholds and even praises the part of HB2 that singles out transgender persons for discrimination. The law sets up an impossible situation for law enforcement. Short of actually employing bathroom monitors to check birth certificates, chromosomes, or genitals, there’s no way police departments can enforce the law. Instead the law creates an atmosphere of fear and suspicion, in which transgender people may find themselves the target of angry confrontation or violence by appearing to use the “wrong” bathroom.

A transgender man with bulging biceps and five-o-clock shadow is likely to cause a stir and raise concerns by using the women’s restroom, as HB2 legally requires him to do. The uncomfortable encounters have already begun. Transgender man and North Carolina resident Charlie Comero prepared cards that read, “I’m following a law that was passed on March 23. I am a transgender man who would rather be using the men’s room right now, in preparation of tense encounters caused by a law that now requires him to use public restrooms for women, despite his masculine appearance. Using the men’s restroom could lead to criminal charges.

Comero has already had some tense and awkward encounters, and described the encounters he fears most.

But here’s what I’m most afraid of: When they don’t say anything and just ignore me and leave, I’m afraid to leave the bathroom and to be met by that woman’s boyfriend or husband or an authority figure. Because I could easily be socked.

That’s the sad irony of North Carolina’s law; it was passed in the midst of fear mongering that allowing transgender people to legally use public restrooms appropriate to their gender identity would lead to predators using laws like Charlotte’s to masquerade as transgender to prey on victims. In 17 states and 225 cities with such ordinances, not one such case exists. McCrory called Charlotte’s ordinance a law in search of a problem to solve, but that more aptly applies to HB2. Instead of preventing attacks, North Carolina’s law is likely to cause attacks against transgender people, by ratcheting up fear and hysteria, and the legally requiring transgender people to use public restrooms that do not match their gender identity and presentation.


In the end, McCrory’s cynical publicity stunt won’t do much to stop the business boycott of North Carolina, which is picking up steam. This is just a short list of the business North Carolina won’t be getting after passing HB2.

  • Deutsche Bank has frozen its expansion in Cary, North Carolina — which would have added 250 jobs to its software application development center, which already employs 900 people — because of the law.
  • PayPal withdrew its plans to build a $3.6 million operations center in Charlotte, which would have created more than 400 jobs.
  • Artists Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr have cancelled shows in the state.
  • Fortune magazine cancelled an annual meeting of nearly 1,700 ethical corporations due to take place in October, and which would have brought more than $1 million into the state. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss social good and the group’s commitment to creating an inclusive community. HB2 directly contradicts that mission.
  • Thirteen planned conventions and events in Charlotte have been cancelled as a result of the law. Twenty-nine more could be cancelled as well.
  • Wake County’s tourism agency says the Raleigh area has already lost $732,000 in economic benefits due to numerous cancellations of conferences and events. The Raleigh Visitors Bureau warned the area could lose $24 million in economic benefits if the law is not repealed. The biggest loss could be a 4-year contract for a sports tournament that would being 51,000 people and $4.5 billion in benefits to the area each year.
  • The state could lost billions of dollars in federal funding for roads and schools.
  • Lionsgate studio cancelled an eight-day television production shoot in the state in response to the law.

The governor may have worries of his own. A new poll shows McCrory trailing Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper by four points after signing HB2.

Here’s the rest of the best of the worst in wingnuttery this week:


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