From an editorial Thursday in the Fayetteville Observer:
It is the gift that keeps on giving. Unfortunately, it’s not a gift many of us want, because it’s a mix of job losses, public relations disasters and a host of other unintended consequences.
It’s House Bill 2, the legislation our General Assembly passed amid raging controversy nearly two years ago. At its core was a provision requiring people who use public restrooms to use the facility that corresponds with the gender listed on their birth certificate. Its stated purpose was to protect restroom users from predatory actions — like peeping or even assaults — by transgender people who use the restrooms corresponding with their gender identity rather than their birth certificates. That’s why it quickly came to be known as the “Bathroom Bill.”
It was a ginned-up controversy, a solution to a problem law enforcement agencies said was nonexistent. The whole exercise was about making points with conservative ideologues, not about protecting anyone from a societal danger. But the reaction from across the nation was swift and angry. Many saw it as institutional discrimination against several classes of people — or, more simply, state endorsement of hatred. The NBA moved its All-Star Game out of Charlotte. The NCAA moved several tournament games to other states. Conventions and business conferences were canceled; corporate moves here were put on hold. It cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business and tax revenue.
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As the anger continued to boil, lawmakers recognized their mistake and tried to take corrective action. Many of HB2′s provisions were repealed. But some were left on the books, at least for a few more years. That includes a prohibition on individual cities and counties passing anti-discrimination ordinances that are any more stringent or comprehensive than the state’s own laws. And state law does not forbid discrimination for sexual identity or orientation. It’s legal, in North Carolina, to discriminate against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people simply because of who or what they are.
And that’s the gift that keeps giving. It may well have been a factor in Amazon and Apple deciding against locating huge new campuses in the Triangle area. It’s enough of a problem that the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority budgeted $3 million over the past two years for “Post HB2 Marketing/Sales support.” They wouldn’t be spending that kind of money if there wasn’t a lingering problem, and the authority’s annual report noted that six states still ban official travel here because of HB2.
Pate believes Netflix would change its corporate mind about filming “OBX” in Wilmington if lawmakers would consider moving up HB2′s Dec. 1, 2020 sunset and getting rid of its still-damaging provisions in this year’s session. “We have a tiny window where this could be pulled out of the fire,” he says.
We hope our lawmakers have heard Pate’s plea and will take his advice. Netflix may be the tip of a costly iceberg, the continuing backlash against HB2 that leads many corporations to avoid this state because of the law’s discriminatory message.
Let’s dump what remains of this really bad legislative idea and get on with expanding our economy. Two years of a costly debacle is enough.