Will McCrory abandon North Carolina restroom bill?
by Evan Wilt
Posted 4/06/16, 04:13 pm
North Carolina is facing sustained political and economic pressure to undo HB2—a law created to protect privacy in public restrooms and locker rooms.
In the weeks since he signed the bill into law, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has endured a cacophony of criticism: Other governors banned travel to his state, businesses relocated jobs, and activist groups filed suit. In choosing to stand by HB2, McCrory could face a tumultuous road to reelection in November. But by sticking to his guns, the governor could set a new precedent for elected leaders to adhere to conservative values despite outside pressure.
“We’re hired to do a job; we are hired to govern and to protect everyone,” said U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C. “You have to look at potential outcomes, and you can’t give over-extended protections to some and at the same time potentially harm other people.”
Lawmakers passed HB2 in response to a city of Charlotte ordinance that made sexuality and gender preference protected classes under its civil rights laws. But the ordinance could have forced businesses in the city to allow men into women’s restrooms, accommodating for their “gender identity” and not what is on their birth certificate.
North Carolina conservatives moved swiftly to overrule the Charlotte ordinance and put a stop to other local legislators in the state passing similar laws. Pittenger told me HB2 is not about disenfranchising anyone, it’s about protecting innocent North Carolinians from a breech in privacy they did not ask for.
“What’s going to happen if some emotionally unstable person enters a bathroom under the guise of being transgender and actually displays himself to children or to women?” he asked. “People are free to live their lives out the way that they want to, but they just can’t do it in a way that is offensive to other people.”
McCrory has had to repeatedly defend HB2 since he signed it into law March 23.
“I’ve witnessed the people of North Carolina put aside their disagreements and come together to accommodate and work out solutions, while still respecting each other’s beliefs and values,” McCrory said in a statement. “I’ve also witnessed politicians who have exploited differences and divided our people. Instead of living up to the North Carolina tradition of respecting those with whom they disagree, they’ve demonized our state for political gain.”
McCrory’s remarks are aimed, in part, at North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who vowed not to defend the state in a lawsuit filed by gay-rights activists.
Cooper, the Democratic challenger for the governor’s mansion this fall, is using the law to bolster his own campaign, claiming McCrory’s move to “discriminate” will hurt North Carolina citizens and businesses.
Two weeks ago, PayPal announced plans to open a new global operations center in Charlotte, creating 400 new jobs. But because of HB2, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said he is scraping the expansion.
“Legislation has been abruptly enacted by the state of North Carolina that invalidates protections of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens,” Schulman said. “The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture.”
More than 120 business executives at large companies like Facebook, Starbucks, and IBM signed an open letter calling for McCrory to repeal the law. And PayPal is not the only company to abandon North Carolina.
Fox46 Charlotte reported entertainment company Lionsgate was planning to shoot a new comedy series in the state. The project included hotel and equipment rentals and jobs for more than 100 North Carolinians during production. But because of HB2, Lionsgate decided to move filming to Canada.
“The threat that HB2 poses to jobs and our economy is no longer a possibility. It’s a reality,” Cooper said. “These are new, better-paying jobs North Carolina won’t get because Gov. McCrory has put his political ideology above all else.”
The tension surrounding North Carolina is not an isolated incident. Other state officials have suffered national smear campaigns for standing by their moral convictions.
Last year, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, sparked a national outcry for signing a religious freedom law to help protect businesses owners from participating in activities contrary to their sincerely held beliefs. He soon caved under the pressure. Pence demanded lawmakers present him with a new bill to ensure the state’s law would not discriminate against gays and lesbians.
Pittenger is hopeful McCrory will stand his ground on HB2 and won’t fold under pressure from the LGBT community.
“I think this fight has broad consequences in setting precedence,” Pittenger said. “We’ll just have to see how the governor responds. I hope he will look at the long term and look at policies that help and protect everyone, not just a select few.”
Evan is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Washington, D.C.