Apple faces LGBTQ backlash for considering North Carolina for expansion

Apple considering NC’s RTP for new center

Computer giant Apple is actively considering locating some of its operations in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park.
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Computer giant Apple is actively considering locating some of its operations in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park.

Apple is running into a backlash from gay-rights advocates just like Amazon has over the companies' consideration of North Carolina for major expansions.

Opposition stems from the legacy of the HB2 "bathroom" law that became a national flashpoint for anti-discrimination efforts. It was later partially repealed.

The news site Axios reported Friday that LGBT activists are "reacting with anger and dismay" over news that Apple is looking at locating at a site in Research Triangle Park. State legislative leaders on Thursday said they would enhance financial incentives to attract major companies, which would include Apple.

The Axios story quoted one unnamed activist saying "North Carolina is one of the most hostile states in the country to LGBTQ people." By Friday afternoon, a headline in the tech and entertainment site Mashable read: "Apple may build campus in North Carolina — despite the state's awful anti-LGBTQ laws."

Axios also quoted American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, a supporter of gay rights, saying Apple would make a bigger impact in a place like North Carolina than it would in a place where anti-discrimination protections were firmly in place.

Amazon's search for a second headquarters has been criticized by a Washington, D.C.-based campaign called "No Gay? No Way!" that was launched to pressure the company into avoiding states with discriminatory policies, and included North Carolina. The Triangle is one of the 20 finalists for the Amazon project.

On Thursday, the No Gay? No Way! group filed public records requests for correspondence that would show coordination between anti-LGBT groups and individuals and state officials in North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Texas.

Amazon has decided to limit its criteria to states that have laws in place to protect gay and transgender people, according to a Washington Post story that cited unnamed sources. The newspaper also reported in April that Amazon representatives met with Gov. Roy Cooper and quizzed him on HB2.

A spokeswoman for Cooper told The News & Observer at the time that the governor tells companies who bring up the topic that the state has repealed HB2 and he has signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination in state contracting.

In March 2017, the state repealed the provision in HB2 that required people to use public restrooms that match their gender at birth, rather than their gender identity. But the state does not allow cities and counties to enact anti-discrimination ordinances.

Cook, who is a Duke University graduate and serves on its board of trustees, was in the Triangle last weekend to deliver the commencement address. He also met with Cooper.

In 2014, Cook wrote publicly for the first time about being gay in an editorial for Bloomberg, saying he hoped the disclosure would help advance public acceptance.

"Still, there are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation," Cook wrote. "There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies. Countless people, particularly kids, face fear and abuse every day because of their sexual orientation."

He said Apple has taken strong stands for workplace equality nationally, marriage equality in California, and in opposition to legislation in Arizona.

Both the Apple and Amazon projects bring the promise of thousands of employees and billions of dollars in investments. Republican leaders in the legislature unveiled a new incentives package, which they said will build on the state's improving economy and make it easier to recruit industry.

State House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, a Democrat from Knightdale, on Friday criticized the Republican leadership.

"Make no mistake, Amazon, Google, Facebook, none of these big technology firms would be considering NC if HB2 was still on the books," Jackson tweeted. "None. Next time #ncga leaders goes up & tries to claim credit, someone might remind them they took action to keep every 1 of these companies out."

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO

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