Amid rumored 730-job loss, the future of HB2 is debatable

Repeal or federal ruling may prevent further harm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Several sources recently reported the latest investment loss borne by the state of North Carolina since the advent of House Bill 2 (HB2), known to conservatives as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act. Many corporations, organizations and individuals have protested the law by canceling planned events or expansion, some even sending letters to the governor. There is some dissension as to whether the latest loss is in fact due to the discriminatory law.

The loss in question is the planned expansion of a new research operations headquarters for the CoStar Group, a real estate company based in Washington, D.C. The facilities would have brought an $8.2 million initial investment, 730 long-term jobs, and a projected quarter-billion dollars in economic impact. According to the Washington Business Journal, CoStar had determined that the new facilities’ host would be one of four finalist cities: Richmond, Va., Atlanta, Ga., Kansas City, Kansas or Charlotte, N.C. Atlanta Business Chronicle reported that Charlotte and Richmond were head-to-head for the prize.

CoStar’s Oct. 24 announcement that Richmond had won out sparked debate over the reason for the choice. North Carolina news sources quoted Cushman & Wakefield Senior Vice President David Dorsch of Charlotte, who said he had aided CoStar’s real estate research.

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“The primary reason they chose Richmond over Charlotte was HB2,” Dorsch said. “Their not coming here is a commentary on Gov. Pat McCrory and Mayor Jennifer Roberts.”

Although Dorsch’s claim has been rebuked as “in the heat of the moment” by a coworker at Cushman & Wakefield, more than a few news sources leapt on the theory as yet another example of the fallout from HB2’s advent in North Carolina. Whatever the specific case with CoStar — which has remained tight-lipped about HB2 — the law has undoubtedly had repercussions.

These repercussions go beyond finances and into the very day-to-day lives of many North Carolinians.

“I have heard personally about so many more violent incidents in gendered spaces towards trans individuals because the state has in effect sanctioned this behavior,” reports Trey Greene, co-founder of Transcend Charlotte. “The result is that civilians who are completely uninformed about trans issues are now more vigilant about guarding bathrooms, locker rooms, etc. from use by trans individuals. It’s crazy, because we’ve always been in the bathrooms with cisgender people.”

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From personal conflict to economic repercussions, it’s clear that HB2 is a hot-button issue in North Carolina. Lawmakers have long debated how to address the issue, with activists pushing for a full repeal. Yet some sources claim that a repeal would be a temporary solution, and that there is more promise in the federal courts.

An August decision by the Fourth Circuit court gives hope to those who want a broader, federal condemnation of the law. Judge Thomas Schroeder ruled that HB2 violated the rights of the three transgender plaintiffs of Carcaño v. McCrory, ordering a preliminary injunction in the plaintiffs’ favor.

Enrique Armijo, a constitutional law professor at Elon University School of Law, told NC Policy Watch that if the federal judge were to strike down the law, it would be a more lasting effect than a simple repeal.

“If a federal court has the trial and says that the law violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the constitution, North Carolina will no longer be able to say to transgender people which restrooms they should use, in public buildings or anywhere else,” Armijo said.

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