Retired Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. on Tuesday criticized North Carolina’s new statewide discrimination law, saying it is “inappropriate, unnecessary legislation that will hurt North Carolina.”
For Charlotte, he said, the city’s image could be hurt by the bill, which dictates that transgender residents use restrooms of their biological sex noted on their birth certificates at government buildings and public schools.
“I think we have a great city. It’s an open city. It attracts young people, the millennials,” McColl told the Observer in an interview. “And I think any step taken that makes the city or the state less open is very bad for our economy, because it may cause people to decide not to come here, and I think that’s bad.”
McColl said he doesn’t know whether House Bill 2 will hurt the state’s ability to lure businesses in the long run. But: “I don’t think it will help.”
The bill has generated criticism from some major employers following Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s signing of the legislation into law last week.
American Airlines, Lowe’s, Apple and Google are among big companies that have pushed back against the bill, which was designed to undo a nondiscrimination ordinance approved by the Charlotte City Council last month. The ordinance’s most controversial element permitted transgender people to use restrooms of the gender with which they identify at government offices and at places of public accommodation, such as restaurants and theaters.
Criticism from the business community has continued into this week. On Monday, the state’s biggest furniture market, the annual High Point Market, said hundreds or perhaps thousands of its customers will not attend the April event because of HB2’s passage.
On Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were among dozens of chief executives across the U.S. who signed a letter to McCrory urging a repeal of the legislation.
At a news conference Monday, McCrory defended the bill and said he’s spoken with “many, many” business leaders who “understand” the law once it’s explained to them.
McColl said the law is not good for North Carolina’s reputation, “and ergo it won’t be good for our economy.”
“My guess is the bill is unconstitutional, although I am not a lawyer,” he said, adding that he has read about the bill but not reviewed the legislation itself.
McColl, 80, is known for past support of gay rights in Charlotte.
He was CEO of NationsBank when the Charlotte-based lender in 1998 announced the extension of domestic-partner benefits to NationsBank employees.
Those benefits were already available to employees at San Francisco’s BankAmerica, which NationsBank merged with later in 1998 to form Bank of America. NationsBank became one of the largest Carolinas companies with such a policy.
McColl also worked to unseat Mecklenburg County commissioners after the county in 1997 cut funds for the arts following a local performance of the play “Angels in America,” which featured gay themes.
McColl says it’s important for Charlotte to be inclusive in order to keep drawing young people.
“We have a great city, and what makes it great is smart young people and smart other-aged people coming here and working here,” he said.
“And if you create an environment that’s not open, then you will lose that. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that’s bad.”