RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory has been the most passionate proponent of HB2, the notorious “bathroom bill” that openly discriminates against transgender people. The governor has spoken countless times of the “commonsense” nature of the bill, and has even sued the federal government for pointing out that the legislation violates civil rights. However, on Sept. 16, McCrory and company withdrew their lawsuit against the Justice Department on the grounds of “substantial cost,” especially because a similar suit is already active in federal court.
The true cost of HB2 has been worth more to LGBT North Carolinians than financial assets, though money is persuasive enough on its own. A recent estimate by Wired goes into detail about every performance, sporting event, and business expansion canceled in the state for the express reason of HB2’s discriminatory rhetoric. The grand total?
$395 million dollars. So far.
But what is particularly ironic about Gov. McCrory’s explanation for the reneged lawsuit is that he, in August, failed to veto a bill diverting $500,000 from the state’s disaster relief fund in order to defend HB2 in court. However, public backlash on this move seemed to take an effect, and McCrory’s office declared a few days later that the funds would not be used to defend HB2.
Yet, still, the governor has been a loud supporter of the law itself, all while campaigning for re-election against Attorney General Roy Cooper. At a recent campaign stop, the governor’s team planted friendly questions at a Q & A, claiming that they came from The Charlotte Observer. When called out by the Observer staff, the governor didn’t deny it, instead insisting that “80 percent of the questions came straight from the audience.”
In a recent speech at the Rotary club, McCrory read his own email message to a Charlotte City Councilmember from February, when the city’s non-discrimination ordinance was to be voted upon.
“The city of Charlotte is causing more problems by trying to solve a problem that does not exist,” McCrory claimed. He went on to describe HB2’s consequential passage in decidedly friendly terms, and went even further when Gov. McCrory reported on a meeting with the chairman of Human Rights Campaign (which he misnamed “the Human Relations Campaign”):
“He said, ‘Governor, I’m going to make North Carolina the epicenter of the transgender bathroom movement in the United States of America,’” McCrory claimed. “ ‘And once I finish with North Carolina, I’m going to move to all the states . . . we’re going after you.’ ”
McCrory’s ominous report of this meeting with HRC officials was not taken lightly by the organization’s staff. On Sept. 20, HRC President Chad Griffin released a joint statement along with Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro and transgender advocate Candis Cox. The group represented the meeting in an entirely different light.
“Governor McCrory lied to North Carolinians today. In the wake of HB2’s passage six months ago, we hand-delivered a letter from more than 100 CEOs and business leaders urging Governor McCrory to repeal the bill,” the statement read. “We also asked him to meet with LGBTQ North Carolinians, which he has still not done. Instead of working with us, Governor McCrory has attacked us publicly and has continued to falsely characterize our conversation.”
As if lost revenue and bad publicity weren’t enough, McCrory’s administration had to add one more recent conflict to the turmoil over HB2.
“If the Charlotte City Council totally repeals the [non-discrimination] ordinance and then we can confirm there is support to repeal among the majority of state lawmakers … the governor will call a special session,” McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis told the Observer.
If this proposal were to become a reality, it would leave LGBT Charlotteans just as vulnerable as they were before any of the HB2 mess. LGBTQ advocates, including HRC Senior Vice President JoDee Winterhof, spoke out:
“This is the same cheap trick the North Carolina General Assembly has attempted all along,” Winterhof said, “asking Charlotte to repeal crucial protections for the LGBTQ community and trust they will hold up their end of the bargain on a full repeal of HB2.”
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts seems to regard McCrory’s proposal as a non-issue. Slate reported that the city council would not consider repealing the non-discrimination ordinance, though Roberts did “applaud the governor for recognizing the state should overturn HB2, which the state can do at any time without any action from the City of Charlotte.”
Even the editorial board of the New York Times has condemned this so-called compromise.
“It’s not too late for Mr. McCrory to come to his senses and take the only way out — admit ignorance and error and repeal the law,” Times editors wrote. “The rule was never enforceable, since police officers can’t reasonably be required to inspect people’s genitals outside bathroom stalls. The point of the law was to harm and humiliate L.G.B.T. citizens, and for that all North Carolinians are having to pay an ever growing price.”