Business

Charlotte mayor: New LGBT law harmful for small businesses

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin along with LGBT supporters addressed the media about the new anti-LGBT law in North Carolina. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro, Charlotte City Council member Lawana Mayfield, and other Charlotte City Council members, along with local LGBT equality advocates addressed the new anti-LGBT law that was passed by Governor Pat McCrory at a press conference held at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center Wednesday.
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin along with LGBT supporters addressed the media about the new anti-LGBT law in North Carolina. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro, Charlotte City Council member Lawana Mayfield, and other Charlotte City Council members, along with local LGBT equality advocates addressed the new anti-LGBT law that was passed by Governor Pat McCrory at a press conference held at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center Wednesday. ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

North Carolina’s new law limiting legal protections for LGBT individuals is as harmful for local small businesses as it is for their large corporate counterparts who have publicly denounced the measure, says Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts.

The law’s already sending “the wrong message” that’s dissuaded would-be conventions from taking place in Charlotte, and those large events are a boon for small businesses focused on hospitality, Roberts said Wednesday.

“Things that jeopardize (tourism) are directly impacting small businesses. In so many different ways, this is a challenge to our future,” Roberts said. Tourism and hospitality is the Charlotte region’s fourth largest industry, generating more than $6.3 billion a year, according to figures from the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

Roberts was joined by a handful of North Carolina small businesses in a call hosted by Small Business Majority, a Washington-based advocacy group with a network of 45,000 small businesses. The group’s data show that two-thirds of small businesses say business owners shouldn’t be able to deny goods or services to LGBT individuals.

North Carolina’s new law limits legal protections of LGBT individuals by setting a statewide definition of protected classes of citizens. Government officials said they acted in response to Charlotte’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender with which they identify.

Critics of the Charlotte ordinance cite privacy concerns and say it was “social engineering” to allow people born as biological males to enter women’s restrooms.

The new N.C. law has drummed up support mostly among smaller companies. The North Carolina Values Coalition, which says that over 300 businesses have signed a letter in support of Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. General Assembly, maintains that 70 percent of North Carolinians wanted Charlotte’s ordinance repealed.

But Small Business Majority’s polling also showed that 67 percent of North Carolina entrepreneurs say the state should have anti-discrimination legal protection for LGBT individuals.

Tony Cope is one of them. He’s the owner of Myriad Media in Raleigh and said Wednesday he’s worried what the measure will do for business from a competitive standpoint.

“I’m concerned it will make it hard to recruit the talent that I need. It’s important people see this state as a desirable place to settle down,” Cope said.

Further, he added, the growing list of big companies opposing House Bill 2 include some of his clients. “I don’t like it when my clients are unhappy,” he said.

Keil Jansen, owner of Ponysaurus Brewing Co. in Durham, called the new LGBT law “a major black eye for our state.”

“This is a big problem for people when they are considering where to move their families. This comes on the heels of the state working awful hard to double secret ban gay marriage,” Jansen said.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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