I have lived in North Carolina for going on 36 years, mostly in Charlotte, but with a four year stint in Winston-Salem. I moved here after college in Atlanta, which I also love, but was born and raised in Florida. Florida has basically two seasons and is flat, so being in North Carolina with its four seasons, trees, mountains and coast is more my taste. It has been a great place to do business, but the recent years have made things more challenging than they need to be.
Our state used to take pride in being the most progressive state in the south. We were open for business, research and education. About ten years ago, for example, we were hailed by passing a law that obligated our electric utilities to phase-in the use of renewable energy over the next fifteen years. As a result, our state is the fourth most prevalent state in solar energy and is ripe for more wind energy expansion. This was a prescient eye toward the future.
Yet, since the 2010 elections, our state has been governed by a very conservative set of leaders who seized the opportunity of the President’s first mid-term election and a census year to gain a majority and gerrymander the voting districts to favor their candidates going forward. It should be noted the Democrats did this in previous census years, but that does not make it any more correct – it was wrong then and is wrong now. It should be noted, the gerrymandering was overturned as unconstitutionally drawn in two districts two months ago, and all districts have been redrawn.
The dilemma is our legislature has proceeded to pass a series of laws and avoid taking positive actions that have made our state much less progressive and the subject of lampooning by national businesses and media. Some of the actions are still in court, while others have been ruled unconstitutional like the above gerrymandering ruling.
A law which made it harder for women to get access to abortion facilities was overturned as unconstitutional. A law that said the tenure of existing teachers could be overlooked was overturned. A law that said the Jim Crow like and most restrictive Voter ID Law in the country remains in court. It should be noted that the legislature tried to preempt the most recent court case, by changing some of the features last summer, knowing they did a bridge too far.
The latest foray is HB2 which unfairly discriminates against the LGBT community in response to a City of Charlotte ordinance passed last month to permit transgender people to legally use the bathroom they identify with. This law exists in about 200 cities around the country. Using fear tactics that unjustly paint transgender people as sexual predators (without data I might add), the state General Assembly swept in for a special session and passed a law to say the person must use the bathroom based on gender at birth. Plus, it went beyond this restricting formal rights for all LGBT people and preventing other cities to pass similar ordinances or minimum wage laws.
To make it worse, the Governor signed this into law the same day without reading it. I say this because at a news conference to tell others the criticism of the law is overblown, he was asked about a couple of features of the law, which he was unaware were therein. The news conference was hastily called as the backlash has been huge. So, far 120 major companies such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Google, Lowe’s, Apple, Facebook, etc. have signed a letter asking for the repeal. Thus far, a specific filming project for a TV comedy has been canceled and one convention reservation has been terminated. Others are reconsidering events, plans and projects in the state.
And, that is just to date. My guess is the mountain of companies will build and pressure the General Assembly to act. Plus, a law suit has been filed against the unconstitutionality of the law. While stranger things have happened, I cannot see this law suit failing as the law is discriminatory. Plus, it is ineffective. First, someone born as a man or woman that looks like, acts like and/ or biologically is the opposite sex, then to force them to use a bathroom opposite their countenance will heighten risk and incidents. Second, setting the legal issue aside, there is very little chance for the law to be policed. So, in practice, the issue is moot. If Aunt Edna is now Uncle Ed, there is very little chance he will be stopped from going to the men’s bathroom.
My state is in confusion. We have tarnished our image and that will hurt both our economy and reputation. And, for what gain, as there is not much that can be done to limit the bathroom of choice? Finally, if the General Assembly fails to act, they will be made to act when the law is ruled unconstitutional. This law needs to be repealed to avoid further embarrassment and negative impact on our economy.