HB2 has harmed millions of people across the state of North Carolina. It has become a dangerous rallying cry for politicians interested in smearing the LGBTQ community and targeting transgender people. It has cost the state nearly $450 million in commercial activity. Adding insult to injury, taxpayers are footing the bill for defending the law in court because it is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the U.S. Constitution.
If that weren’t enough, it’s an international embarrassment. HB2 was a self-inflicted wound, rammed through by Gov. Pat McCrory, Senate President Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore in just 12 hours. At any point over the last six months, these three leaders could have repealed their mistake just as quickly. Instead, they’ve dug in their heels – out of pride or bigotry or both – and watched the chaos unfold. It’s also important not to forget the consequences for real people. Studies have shown that transgender people face staggeringly high rates of discrimination.
But it’s amazing to watch democracy at work. Poll after poll has shown that North Carolinians oppose HB2, and a majority also support a statewide LGBTQ nondiscrimination law. Today, we’re fewer than 50 days from Election Day. Early voting is right around the corner. And like clockwork, these politicians responsible for HB2 are looking for a way to avoid paying the price at the ballot box.
Their tactic this week has been to try to blame the very people targeted by HB2. McCrory’s allies dangled the possibility of repealing HB2 – but only if Charlotte jettisoned its LGBTQ protections first.
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There are myriad reasons why this is a terrible idea. But let’s start with just one: It wouldn’t fix the economic disaster caused by HB2.
The NCAA announced earlier this year that it would not locate future events in cities that can’t provide a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment for their student athletes, fans and employees. So, without Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance in place, North Carolina won’t be able to to win back games. On a similar path, the NBA just moved its All-Star Game to New Orleans, a city that both protects LGBTQ people and earns a score of 91 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.
It’s not as if these organizations have to look far for welcoming cities to hold their events. Despite McCrory’s hysterics, more than 135 million Americans – or 42 percent of the U.S. population – currently live in cities with LGBTQ protections like the ones passed in Charlotte. These aren’t liberal enclaves we’re talking about, either; they’re cities like Atlanta; Jackson, Mississippi; Dallas; and Orlando.
Of course, there are many other reasons not to repeal Charlotte’s ordinance. For one thing, it would leave the LGBTQ community worse off. For another, it pre-supposes that both the General Assembly and Pat McCrory would hold up their end of the bargain. Their actions over the last six months have not inspired tremendous faith.
With Election Day nearing, voters also realize they have another option in front of them: They will have the chance to elect a governor and state legislative leaders who will simply repeal HB2.
McCrory’s brazen attempt to saddle Charlotte’s leaders with political blame for his own failure of leadership suggests that he’s come to the same realization. Thus far, everyone has seen through his ruse.
If McCrory wants to win back voters and show real leadership, it’s clear he must stop weak attempts to misdirect attention, work with legislative leadership and call a special session to repeal HB2. Only then can he begin to repair the damage he has caused to the state he was elected to lead.
Chris Sgro is director of Equality North Carolina. Chad Griffin is president of the Human Rights Campaign.