LGBT discrimination in North Carolina: Backlash round-up

By : Wire Report
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Across the U.S., big business is pulling out of North Carolina and state governors are banning travel to the state. This following the passage of a state law that prevents municipalities from passing measures that project LGBTs.

A round-up of the latest wave of backlash after the jump. Here’s yesterday’s round-up. 

Companies reconsider deals with North Carolina
Raleigh (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory met with gay-rights advocates bearing a letter signed by more than 100 corporate executives urging him to repeal the nation’s first state law limiting the bathroom options for transgender people.

The law also excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from anti-discrimination protections, and blocks municipalities from adopting their own anti-discrimination and living wage rules.

The governor “appreciated the opportunity to sit down and deal with these complex issues through conversation and dialogue as opposed to political threats and economic retaliation,” his spokesman, Josh Ellis, said in a statement March 31.

The advocates declined to describe McCrory’s response.

Some companies are already reconsidering doing business in the country’s ninth-largest state.

New Jersey-based Braeburn Pharmaceuticals said it is “reevaluating our options based on the recent, unjust legislation” whether to build a $20 million manufacturing and research facility in Durham County. The 50 new jobs paying an average of nearly $76,000 a year were announced two weeks ago.

Lionsgate, the California-based entertainment company, had been lining up hotel and equipment rentals and hiring more than 100 workers in North Carolina, but decided to shoot its pilot episode for a comedy series in Canada instead, said Jennifer Irvine, a Charlotte production coordinator.

Charlotte convention officials and the organizers of one of the world’s largest furniture markets say some customers have pulled out, also citing the new law.

Changing business plans is much more difficult for companies with existing investments in buildings, equipment and people, but the outsized lobbying power of major corporations could reshape how prospective talent and investors perceive North Carolina as a place they want to be, business observers said.

“These companies have made long-term investments or are thinking about long-term investments in North Carolina” and won’t likely retreat solely due to this law, said DJ Peterson, who advises companies on political, social and economic issues as founder of Longview Global Advisors, a Los Angeles consulting firm.

But as businesses showed Georgia this week, “the political pressure, the visibility they’re bringing to the issue, politicians do have to pay attention to it,” Peterson said.

After Walt Disney Co., Marvel Studios and Salesforce.com threatened to take their business elsewhere and the NFL suggested Atlanta could lose its bids for the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a measure that would have allowed individuals, businesses and faith organizations to deny services to others based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Leaders of many economic sectors signed onto the letter. Tourism is represented by Hilton, Marriott and Starwood hotels; AirBnB, Uber and Lyft; and American Airlines, which has a major hub in Charlotte, the state’s largest city. Banking and finance executives include the leaders of Bank of America, Citibank, TD Bank, PayPal, and others. Restaurateurs and retailers include leaders of Starbucks, Barnes & Noble and Levi Strauss; and technology executives joined in force, including the leaders of IBM, Apple, Intel, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, eBay, Twitter, YouTube, and many others.

The new law “will make it far more challenging for businesses across the state to recruit and retain the nation’s best and brightest workers and attract the most talented students from across the nation. It will also diminish the state’s draw as a destination for tourism, new businesses, and economic activity,” the letter said.

Bank of America is the biggest of only a handful of North Carolina-based companies to sign on to the repeal letter. The country’s largest electric company, Duke Energy Corp., doesn’t take a position on social issues, spokesman Tom Williams said. Duke Energy’s anti-discrimination policy includes sexual orientation and gender identity along with race, religion and ethnicity, he said.

The state’s Chamber of Commerce has not expressed a position on the law, which includes provisions some companies may appreciate, including a prohibition against local requirements that businesses to pay more than the state’s minimum wage, currently $7.25 an hour, and an effective ban on employment discrimination lawsuits in state courts.

When Indiana adopted a “religious freedom” law, that state’s business chamber was among the most vocal opponents, joining an outcry that forced the legislature and governor to revise the law. Indianapolis’ tourism group, Visit Indy, estimates a $60 million loss in net state revenue after 12 different convention groups cited the religious objections law as part of the reason they took events elsewhere.
But the spokeswoman for the North Carolina chamber, Kate Catlin, would not describe any feedback from its members, or explain why the business lobby has not taken a position.

Companies like the prospect of avoiding baseless lawsuits, but won’t say so at the risk of being misconstrued as wanting to discriminate, said Hans Bader, a lawyer with the anti-regulatory Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is tracking a lawsuit challenging the North Carolina law.

“A silent majority of North Carolina businesses may well approve of North Carolina’s new law,” Bader said. A company “is not going to say so publicly, since that could lead to angry demonstrators picketing or surrounding its headquarters or places of business.”

Corporations opposing the law may be expressing core corporate values, but they also need to be perceived favorably by customers, especially affluent gay ones, and to motivate highly educated, high-value employees who value diversity, said Peterson, who wrote a guidebook for global companies who want to expand LGBT inclusion.

NCAA among groups considering bailing on North Carolina
Houston (AP) — For the second straight year, NCAA President Mark Emmert faced questions at his Final Four news conference about a state’s religious exemption law that critics say allows discrimination against gays, lesbians and others.

And for the second straight year, Emmert said the association is prepared to refrain from doing business in that state and others that create what it considers unwelcoming environments for student-athletes, coaches and fans.

Last year, Indiana was the target of Emmert’s remarks. This year it was North Carolina. With several states working on similar proposals, the NCAA has bound itself to a stance and an issue that shows no signs of going away. That could even lead more to a more proactive approach in the future by the NCAA to stop these laws from being passed.

“We’re trying very hard to be situation-specific, to represent the views and values of intercollegiate athletics and higher education aggressively and to make people understand that we think some of these laws are movements in a direction that are not supportive of what we stand for and make it very, very hard, if not impossible, for us to operate in those states or those municipalities,” Emmert said Thursday.

Last year during the week leading up to the Final Four in Indianapolis, Emmert and the NCAA were pulled into a contentious debate about an Indiana law that critics feared would lead to discrimination against members of the LGBT community.

North Carolina is now receiving similar attention for a law that has drawn many of the same criticisms.

The law approved March 23 by the North Carolina legislature and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory was a response to an impending ordinance in Charlotte, North Carolina, that in part would have allowed transgender people to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity.

McCrory has defended the law, saying the public has an expectation of privacy while using restrooms and locker rooms and shouldn’t have to share them with someone who has anatomy different than theirs. A federal lawsuit has been filed to overturn the law, and more than 100 company executives have signed a letter delivered to McCrory calling the law discriminatory and demanding it be repealed. Emmert said he has spoken with McCroy.

The North Carolina state law overturned Charlotte’s ordinance and further prevents other local governments from passing rules that protect gays and lesbians and transgender people from discrimination at hotels, restaurants and stores. The law also directs public schools, state agencies and University of North Carolina campuses to limit men’s and women’s multi-stall bathroom use only to people of the same biological sex.

In Houston last year, voters overturned in a referendum a similar bathroom ordinance that city leaders approved.

Missouri is embroiled in a similar fight over a proposed religious freedom amendment to the constitution and Mississippi just this week passed a sweeping so-called religious liberty bill.

South Carolina President Harris Pastides, the chairman of the Division I board of directors, said he thinks the membership is “inching toward a more proactive stand on this issue.”

“It is a consideration for choosing locations for post-season competition. To try to be more proactive is commensurate and compatible with NCAA core values, but values of all member institutions,” Pastides said. “I’m sensing among the membership and the board a greater interest in making our viewpoints and values more widely known. How that plays out on Main Street around the 50 states, we’ll have to wait and see. But I think it’s something that is a very, very important issue for us all.”

The NCAA has numerous championship events scheduled to be held in North Carolina over the next three years, including first- and second-round men’s basketball tournament games in 2017 (Greensboro) and Charlotte (2018). Cary is set to host the Division I women’s soccer finals and there are several Division II and III events already on the calendar.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he was hesitant to speak in detail about the law because he did not know enough about it, but he did say he hoped it would not put the state in a “bad light.”

“I think the University of North Carolina and Roy Williams and our basketball program is about diversity, and always will be,” Williams said. “I hope that we always include everybody involved.”

Emmert also addressed Daily fantasy sports companies FanDuel and DraftKings suspending their college games.

“It is a very good step forward. We hope collectively we can get colleges, high schools, little leagues, whatever, anything other than professional sports, out of this arena,” he said.

Connecticut bans travel to NC
Hartford (AP) — Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is banning state-funded travel to North Carolina in response to a new law there that he and other critics have called discriminatory to members of the LGBT community.

The Democrat signed an executive order March 31 requiring state agencies, the Board of Regents and the University of Connecticut to review and deny requests for travel to North Carolina. The order comes a day after Malloy sent a letter to North Carolina businesses, urging them to move to Connecticut because it’s “welcoming and inclusive.”

Republican North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law March 23 preventing local governments from protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity when they use public accommodations.

Malloy signed a similar order last year temporarily barring travel to Indiana.

Oregon joins NC travel bans
Portland (AP) – Oregon has joined the national backlash against a North Carolina law that prevents local governments from protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity when they use public accommodations.

Gov. Kate Brown, the nation’s first openly bisexual governor, said she’s “appalled” by the new North Carolina law, which has been blasted by more than 90 prominent businesses, including Facebook, Apple and American Airlines.

Portland on Wednesday placed a temporary ban on city-funded travel for public employees to North Carolina, following similar steps taken in places such as San Francisco, New York and Washington state.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCory signed the law last week and has since called the travel bans “political theater.”

 

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