North Carolina's H.B.2, which became nationally known as the anti-trans "bathroom bill," has turned into an unmitigated disaster for the Tar Heel State. That isn't stopping Republicans from clinging to increasingly desperate gambits to hang onto this discriminatory legislation.
The law, which was passed and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory during a single day last March, repeals all local or city ordinances protecting LGBT people from discrimination and requires trans people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate — and not the one associated with their experienced gender. The nationwide outcry against this law has resulted in economic problems for the state.
As Wired documented recently, "North Carolinians lost $58.3 million when PayPal and an 'unnamed tech company' canceled their planned expansions to the state," North Carolina's "three largest cities lost $109.4 million to canceled conferences and other events since [the passage of] HB2," and "business boycotts and pullouts have cost North Carolina another $87.7 million." Now the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference are pulling championship athletic events from the state, which will result in an additional $91 million in lost revenue over a 12-month period.
"Our people are suffering. Our economy is suffering. Our reputation is suffering," Mike Meno, the communications director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, explained in a phone interview. "In the last few weeks, particularly after the NCAA and the ACC said they were going to take events out of North Carolina, we’ve seen for the first time Republicans who voted for H.B.2 saying it’s time to repeal. And that number is growing."
Under this immense economic pressure, McCrory is reluctantly admitting that perhaps H.B.2 wasn't the greatest idea. But in the grand Republican tradition of trying to hold someone else responsible for one's own poor choices, McCrory has taken to blaming pro-LGBT forces for North Carolina's problems. You see, he argued, it's not his fault that Republicans passed this horrific law encouraging discrimination and abuse of LGBT people. The liberals made him do it by trying to protect LGBT people from discrimination.
"We had the NCAA championship games during all this time and no one worried about this. It was only until your mayor and city council created a solution to a problem that didn’t exist," McCrory said during a speech last week in Charlotte, in which he also bragged that he is not "politically correct."
You have to give McCrory points for audacity. It's like punching someone in the face and then blaming your subsequent arrest on the punchee for crying out rather than yourself for getting physical in the first place.
Unfortunately, this line of rhetoric has already suckered the folks at the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, which issued a "both sides do it"-style statement, saying it has assurances "that if the Charlotte City Council repeals [the anti-discrimination law] Ordinance #7056 at [its] meeting on Monday, the General Assembly is prepared to meet in special session as early as next week to repeal House Bill 2."
Meno is skeptical.
"Gov. McCrory and the legislature," he said, "were in session for most of the summer. Gov. McCrory could call a special session tomorrow and have the legislature vote on H.B.2 to repeal."
The problems in North Carolina are not "because Charlotte passed an ordinance to protect LGBT people from discrimination," Meno added, but "because Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly passed a law that encourages discrimination against LGBT people."
Efforts to pretend that anti-discrimination forces share the blame with pro-discrimination forces for North Carolina's tidal wave of negative attention should be taken for what they are: attempts to confuse people about the true source of the national anger at North Carolina. So let's be clear: People are not boycotting the state because they're mad that Charlotte passed a law protecting LGBT people from discrimination. They are mad because the state's general assembly passed a law in support of discrimination.
Luckily, this transparent gambit isn't scaring the leaders in Charlotte.
Even though Republicans are demanding that North Carolina's largest city repeal its anti-discrimination ordinance, "there’s no legal reason for Charlotte to do anything," Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts told the Charlotte Observer on Monday.
Meno emphasized this repeatedly, noting that state legislators, it's "always been in their power" to repeal the law, but so far they have simply refused to do so.
What is clear is that Republican elected officials in North Carolina think their constituents are idiots. They apparently believe they can convince voters that the national outcry against the state is about "politicizing" the issue of LGBT rights, as opposed to very specific outrage at state Republicans for enshrining anti-LGBT sentiments into law.
Voters aren't fooled. An August poll found that 58 percent of North Carolina voters felt H.B.2 was hurting the state, and that was before recent high-profile stories about the NCAA and ACC pulling championship tournaments from the state. Now that the national sports media is reporting extensively on the story, it's going to be even harder to bamboozle the public.