Not even this, not even the national embarrassment of losing the National Basketball Association All-Star Game will turn Republicans in the General Assembly away from House Bill 2, the law scuttling a Charlotte city ordinance allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their gender identity. In the process of reaching down to interfere in a Charlotte matter, GOP legislators also limited the ability of local governments to raise their minimum wage and prohibited them from passing their own anti-discrimination ordinances.
The NBA rightly saw that as legislating a lack of protection for gays, lesbians and transgender people, and the league threatened to pull next year’s All-Star game from Charlotte unless the law was changed. It was, but only slightly: A part about limiting the rights of people to bring discrimination suits in state courts was restored. That wasn’t much. The worst parts of the law were left intact.
The NBA saw through it. In announcing it was moving the game, the league issued a statement that said in part, “We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view.”
For Charlotte, this is a loss of an estimated $100 million in economic impact and a lot of prestige, and it represents monumental embarrassment. North Carolina again will suffer national humiliation because of this law.
The General Assembly had a special session to pass HB2. It now should call a special session to repeal it. It’s too late for the All-Star Game, but it might stop the bleeding from HB2.
For HB2 has taken a toll beyond this game. Universities are having trouble landing conferences; some states have prohibited public employees from traveling to North Carolina. Potential hires at universities are turning away. There is even a threat that in the future, rentals of beach property from long-time out-of-state visitors will diminish. The cities are taking the biggest hit, because they will lose convention business to competitor cities that are not burdened by this awful law.
HB2 was passed out of spite by Republican lawmakers who demonstrated they couldn’t care less about the impact of what they do as long as it follows their narrow, right-wing ideology. And the anti-city bias of leading lawmakers – Phil Berger, Senate president pro tem of Eden, and House Speaker Tim Moore of Kings Mountain – became clear in this action as well. They’re charged with looking out for the entire state. Instead, they’re apparently happy to let the cities blow away.
Of course, that means that new industry, particularly in the high-tech field where employee benefits and civil rights protections are important to owners and managers, won’t be coming to North Carolina with expansions (some already canceled) and new locations, which will cost jobs in the small towns and bedroom communities of cities as well as the cities themselves.
Legislating by ideology rarely turns out well, and HB2 is a shining, or rather tarnished, example of that.