Despite having the potential to cost North Carolina almost $5 billion a year, Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2 in just a few hours without due consideration. From the day he ignored calls from the Charlotte leadership about PayPal’s concerns surrounding the nation’s most anti-LGBT law to his refusal to address the cancellation of countless concerts organized in the state, McCrory has downplayed the consequences of the law significantly.
Now, as North Carolina approaches the peak of a busy hurricane season, the governor has decided to treat HB2 as the disaster it has become. Just this week, the state’s Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Fund was depleted of a half-million dollars. Instead of dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and even terrorist attacks, the funds could now be used to defend HB2 in court.
Facing harsh economic consequences, including the NBA’s decision to pull the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, the governor has been adamant about finding new names to blame rather than addressing the problem. Instead of engaging in public dialogue about the law – as I personally asked him to do – the governor has blamed President Obama, PayPal, the NBA, civil rights advocates, the City of Charlotte and the media for the repercussions of the law.
The governor has gone as far as to say to me that the LGBT community “got what we hoped for” in reference to the cancellation of the NBA All-Star Game. I want to be clear. As long as HB2 lingers, none of us is getting what we want. Fans are disappointed, North Carolinians are ashamed and countless small-business owners have been affected. The brutal economic impact of HB2 hurts every North Carolina family. Even worse, countless members of our community have been psychologically traumatized.
Hope Tyler and her 15-year-old transgender son are a clear example of the damage this law has done to our children’s mental health. According to Tyler, her son had finally begun to comfortably settle in to his correct gender before HB2 came along. Now, as it has with all other transgender children, this law has placed the spotlight on him like never before because he is forced to use bathrooms that do not correspond to his gender. He feels unsafe and ostracized.
The Tyler family isn’t alone. In fact, calls to suicide hotlines from the transgender community have doubled, clearly showing the traumatizing effects this law has had on North Carolinians.
Though our state has been wounded, I believe it isn’t too late to reverse the consequences of this law. Through Equality North Carolina, we will continue to educate North Carolinians on how HB2 hurts all of us and will mobilize the community in an effort to repeal HB2. North Carolina has demanded transparency, and that’s why I’ve asked McCrory personally for a public conversation about HB2. I want to hear his reasoning for refusing to repeal this appalling law, and I want him to explain to Tyler and all other parents why it’s OK to put this discriminating spotlight on their children.
North Carolina is a state that has always stood out in the South, built by smart, hardworking and fair-minded people. We have some of the best public universities and some of the most innovative economic engines in the country. Our state should not be defined by this immoral law. HB2 is not who we are. We are a people of integrity.
McCrory owes the LGBT community, and all North Carolinians, a public conversation about the need to fully repeal HB2. The status quo is hurting us every day. North Carolina needs real leadership now.
Chris Sgro is the executive director of Equality North Carolina and the only openly gay member of the N.C. General Assembly. He is not seeking to retain the seat he was appointed to.