Ryan Butler is president of the LGBT Democrats of North Carolina. He is also married to N.C. Rep. Chris Sgro, a leading opponent of HB2. This article responds to an editorial Charlotte Chamber chair Ned Curran published in Sunday’s Observer calling on City Council to repeal its anti-discrimination ordinance. (This statement was submitted prior to Mayor Jennifer Roberts’ announcement that the council will not vote on the ordinance at Monday night’s meeting).
In March, the Observer editorial board published an editorial titled, ‘A governor does right thing – but not ours.’ The same could be said for Charlotte’s Chamber.
In Georgia a Republican legislature was considering passing an anti-LGBT law, which stood to cause significant economic harm to the state and enshrine discrimination into state law. Not only did that state’s republican governor come out against the law, but so did the Metro Atlanta Chamber. The Atlanta Chamber was one of the chief lobbyists against Georgia passing an anti-LGBT law and even funded an economic study which showed their state would lose over a billion dollars if it was passed (it looks like North Carolina is already about half the way there according to a new article from Wired Magazine). That study and the Atlanta Chamber’s strong lobbying, no doubt, played a role in stopping the bill in Georgia.
Compare that with Charlotte’s Chamber, which did little when HB2 was passed. The governor has even made claims that the N.C. Chamber helped write HB2!
And now the Charlotte Chamber is taking their bad policy a step further, with its chairman publishing a ridiculous editorial. In an exercise in tortured sophistry, Ned Curran explains that the legislature might repeal HB2 if Charlotte repeals its LGBT civil rights laws.
So in other words, Charlotte needs to pass the local equivalent of HB2, and then the state might repeal HB2. This type of circular reasoning will not fix any problems. It will only add to Charlotte’s woes. Can you imagine how much Charlotte’s reputation as an inclusive city will be damaged if Charlotte’s local government is bullied into doing nearly same thing the General Assembly did in passing HB2?
Shockingly, he sells Charlotte as being a “welcoming and inclusive” place, while in the very same editorial advocating City Council repeal laws which would prohibit a hotel or restaurant from refusing service to someone just because they’re gay or transgender. And what’s worse is the Charlotte Chamber and HB2 are not representative of Charlotte’s people and their values. Charlotte IS a welcoming and inclusive place. It’s a city that passes laws protecting people from unfair discrimination and fights laws like HB2, but not because of Ned.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber didn’t try to bully its City Council into repealing Atlanta’s civil rights laws (which are similar to Charlotte’s) in order to satisfy extremist legislators. It stood strong and supported the things that make America great, like freedom and equality for all. And you know what, it saved Georgia from the backlash North Carolina is facing today.
The Charlotte Chamber needs to demand the Republican-led General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory repeal HB2, and if they do not, the chamber should be supporting electing other politicians who will. Although Ned seems to care more about money than he does equality or civil rights, he’s got it wrong that the two are opposing forces. Charlotte has lost millions and it happened on his watch. Ned could learn a few things about business and government from his counterparts in Atlanta; equality is good for business.