Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
Economic threats seem more effective than moral and legal arguments in stopping the passage of discriminatory legislation.
Last week, North Carolina lawmakers fast-tracked a bill forbidding its cities from passing local ordinances protecting LGBT residents against discrimination, and dissolving protections for transgender North Carolinians using public bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The law, which critics have called the “most extreme anti-LGBT measure” in the country, was a response to protections for these groups that Charlotte, North Carolina, approved in February.
This is certainly not the first time North Carolina’s conservative state legislature has tried to stop its city and local governments from doing what they consider best for their citizens. It’s also not the first time state lawmakers have taken actions that purposefully exclude minorities. But the rushed manner in which this bill was passed, as well as its broad and sweeping scope, has elicited a resounding uproar across the nation. Following the backlash to North Carolina’s law—and after facing some of its own—Georgia’s governor vetoed a similar measure on Monday.
Public protests and legal challenges to HB 2
In the days since it was passed, North Carolinians have rallied in the streets with the hashtag #WeAreNotThis, arguing that the HB 2 law is against the state’s welcoming spirit.
Activists and advocates have also come down heavily against the law. On Monday, the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and Equality NC sued the state. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina on behalf of two transgender residents and one lesbian resident of the state, argues that HB 2 violates the equal protection and due process provisions of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, as well as Title IX protections for gay and transgender students and school employees.
”This cruel, insulting, and unconstitutional law is an attack on fairness in employment, education, and local governance that encourages discrimination against thousands of LGBT people who call North Carolina home, and particularly targets transgender men and women. HB 2 aims to override local school board policies, local public accommodations laws, and more,” Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina said in a statement.
Here’s what Joaquín Carcaño, one of the transgender plaintiffs, said about the law, also via a press release.
“HB 2 is hurtful and demeaning. I just want to go to work and live my life. This law puts me in the terrible position of either going into the women’s room where I clearly don’t belong or breaking the law,” said plaintiff Joaquín Carcaño. “But this is about more than bathrooms, this is about my job, my community, and my ability to get safely through my day and be productive like everyone else in North Carolina.”
Businesses opposition is an effective weapon
It’s no wonder that cities like Durham, Charlotte, and Atlanta—the economic and innovation powerhouses in their respective states—are also the ones which have favored more inclusive laws. It’s good for business.
That’s why several big companies have protested North Carolina’s HB 2. The Dow Chemical Company, Biogen, and software company Red Hat were among the first to voice their opposition. American Airlines, Apple, PayPal, Google, and IBM have followed suit. The NBA has also denounced the law, saying that it may affect their decision to host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte.
Inclusion is one of our core values and we are proud to champion LGBTQ equality in N. Carolina and around the world: https://t.co/40yYLCrqO1— PayPal (@PayPal) March 24, 2016
Executives from dozens of big-name companies, including Disney, Apple, Time Warner, Intel and Salesforce, called on the governor to veto the bill. The NFL warned it could risk Atlanta’s bid for the Super Bowl and the NCAA hinted it could influence the state’s ability to host championship games. And Deal’s office said two economic development prospects have already abandoned Georgia because of the legislation.
If moral and legal arguments don’t work in stopping the passage of discriminatory laws, economic threats can certainly do the trick.