A governor does right thing – but not ours

The Observer editorial board

Plaintiffs Joaquin Carcano, right, and Angela Gillmore filed a federal lawsuit with others Monday challenging HB 2.
Plaintiffs Joaquin Carcano, right, and Angela Gillmore filed a federal lawsuit with others Monday challenging HB 2. News & Observer

A Southern Republican governor sits at his desk, mulling a bill that paves the way for discrimination against gay residents. The bill was sent to him by a Republican-led General Assembly fearful of a bogeyman that doesn’t exist.

The bill threatens the state’s reputation, and big corporations and sports leagues make that clear. They urge the governor to veto the measure, hinting or stating explicitly that if the bill becomes law they might not bring jobs or big sporting events to the state.

But the governor is squeezed between those voices and those on the far right of his party. They hold the power in the legislature, and they want the governor’s support.

In the end, the governor shows some courage and does the right thing. He vetoes the bill.

“I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community…” the governor says. “This is about the character of our state and the character of its people.”

This story, clearly, is not about N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed HB 757 Monday, rejecting his legislature’s attempt to slow the growing reality of equal treatment under the law.

McCrory? He signed North Carolina’s HB 2 the day it was passed and – in the face of overwhelming condemnation from around the state and country – quickly began pulling the levers of power in state government to spin his actions to help his reelection campaign.

McCrory called Charlotte’s LGBT non-discrimination ordinance a “radical breach of trust and security under the false argument of equal access.” His staff then put together 18 questions and answers that try to make it sound like the legislation does practically nothing at all, or even helps minorities.

In a shameless mixing of his campaign and the executive branch, McCrory’s message of spin went out not only from the governor’s office and his campaign, but also from the N.C. Department of Transportation, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and other state agencies.

If that doesn’t violate GS 126-13, which prohibits state employees from engaging in political activity, it comes mighty close.

Critics of HB 2 filed suit in federal court Monday. In response, McCrory blamed, you guessed it, the media. He believes the New York Times, the Washington Post, N.C. news outlets and others are engaging in “a coordinated national effort to mislead the public.” In a Trumpian flourish, he also claimed that every city today has the same nondiscrimination policy it had two weeks ago – a blatant untruth.

Then, to make sure residents understand the depth of his distaste for equality, McCrory adds that he will relish watching UNC in the Final Four in Houston, which defeated a similar ordinance last year.

McCrory has been steamrolled repeatedly by the more powerful state legislature since his 2012 election. But given his longstanding phobia of gays, McCrory in this instance is not being dragged along by the so-called leaders on Jones Street. Rather he is helping drive his “Carolina Comeback” – a comeback not of the state’s economy but of dark, discriminatory decades past.