The Triangle Business Journal, the very widely-read and respected weekly business newspaper for the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area of North Carolina, holds a quarterly “Power Breakfast” featuring an area senior leader with a few hundred local business leaders. The Spring 2017 breakfast held April 6 featured the newly elected N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper. Gov. Cooper is quite unique, as he was the first challenger to defeat a sitting governor in our state since 1850.
One of the major issues in our state which helped lead to Gov. Cooper’s election was the unpopular HB2 law passed last spring (see goqnotes.com/49921) which dictated the bathroom transgender people needed to use in public venues, curtailed the ability of cities and counties to pass their own non-discrimination ordinances, and more. Accordingly, this ongoing issue was a major part of the April 6 breakfast discussion.
Since I am a diversity and career development consultant with a deep expertise in the LGBTQ workplace and marketplace, I will overview all of Gov. Cooper’s remarks, and delve deeper into the overall diversity and LGBT components of the breakfast.
It is important to note that this meeting was not for the LGBTQ community, but for general business leaders. Therefore, it was quite remarkable that within 30 seconds of taking the stage, Gov. Cooper stated that he loves his state of North Carolina, with its diverse mix of people of different genders, races and sexual orientations, that diversity is all over our state, and “that we need to encourage diversity at every step.”
Key points from our governor:
• His goal is to see North Carolina better educated, healthier, with more money in people’s pockets and with them living more abundant and purposeful lives.
• In terms of economic development, the state needs to attract better-paying jobs to North Carolina, pay attention to the businesses that are already here, and remember that small businesses are a major economic engine.
• Education has to be a key initiative in North Carolina — his goal is for North Carolina to be one of the “Top 10 Best Educated States.” Building its education system is certainly a common-ground issue that all legislators can agree on.
1. Participation in pre-kindergarten education increased from 22 percent to 55 percent
2. High school graduation rate increased from percentages in the low 80s to 90 percent
3. More people with advanced degrees, from 38 percent to 55 percent
• North Carolina can make people healthier by taking advantage of the federal funding provided for healthcare.
• The state has cut taxes enough; it is now time to invest in the state, as well as run things more effectively and efficiently. (I am sure our new state Secretary of Administration Machelle Sanders will see to that!)
• North Carolina has to keep in mind that it is competing in a global economy (not just with bordering South Carolina).
• Art and music are important elements of the quality of life in North Carolina, including attracting leading businesses to the state.
This is certainly an enlightened agenda to positively impact the lives of all North Carolinians.
Much of the focus was on the unpopular HB2 law passed last spring which dictated the bathroom transgender people need to use in public venues, curtailed the ability of cities and counties to pass their own non-discrimination ordinances, and more. A few days before the breakfast, a compromise repeal of HB2 was passed and signed by the governor, which removes the transgender bathroom usage provision, but disallows cities and municipalities from adding anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people before 2020 (see the link above referencing HB2 and my letter to the Raleigh News and Observer (bit.ly/2owQV70) about the inadequacy of the compromise bill.)
Here are the points that Gov. Cooper made about diversity in general, and, more specifically, about HB2 and the LGBTQ community in both his remarks and during the question-and-answer portion at the end of the event.
• Within 30 seconds of taking the stage, Gov. Cooper stated that he loved his state of North Carolina, with its diverse mix of people of different genders, races and sexual orientations, that diversity is all over our state, and “that we need to encourage diversity at every step.”
• The most recent compromise bill repealing parts of HB2 is only a first step. HB2 was very bad for North Carolina’s LGBTQ citizens, the state and its economy.
• Gov. Cooper voiced his strong commitment to fight for statewide protections for LGBTQ citizens of North Carolina.
• He remarked that there is a need to send a signal to North Carolina’s LGBTQ citizens and to other states that North Carolina is headed in the right direction in terms of LGBTQ inclusion.
• The business community needs to continue to take the lead in working on equality for the LGBTQ community.
• North Carolina needs to be a more diverse state and include protections especially for the more vulnerable of its citizens. It needs more comprehensive state non-discrimination policies; meanwhile, eyes should be kept on the federal courts which could help shape this issue.
• When asked if he would consider issuing an executive order similar to Virginia Gov. McAuliffe’s adding the LGBTQ non-discrimination protections requirement to do business with the Commonwealth of Virginia, Gov. Cooper responded positively that he plans to use the executive order broadly and is working on proposals within the LGBTQ area and for other unaddressed groups.
I am heartened by Gov. Cooper’s strong statement of support for LGBTQ equality, and though I feel the recent HB2 removal compromise was a very weak first step, I would like to support Gov. Cooper and provide him any encouragement and assistance to make North Carolina fully inclusive and welcoming of all people in 2017.