Let’s give HB2 an ear­lier sun­set

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page -

From an ed­i­to­rial Thurs­day in the Fayet­teville Ob­server:

It is the gift that keeps on giv­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, it’s not a gift many of us want, be­cause it’s a mix of job losses, pub­lic re­la­tions dis­as­ters and a host of other un­in­tended con­se­quences.

It’s House Bill 2, the legislation our Gen­eral Assem­bly passed amid rag­ing con­tro­versy nearly two years ago. At its core was a pro­vi­sion re­quir­ing peo­ple who use pub­lic re­strooms to use the facility that cor­re­sponds with the gen­der listed on their birth cer­tifi­cate. Its stated pur­pose was to pro­tect re­stroom users from preda­tory ac­tions — like peep­ing or even as­saults — by trans­gen­der peo­ple who use the re­strooms cor­re­spond­ing with their gen­der iden­tity rather than their birth cer­tifi­cates. That’s why it quickly came to be known as the “Bath­room Bill.”

It was a ginned-up con­tro­versy, a so­lu­tion to a prob­lem law en­force­ment agen­cies said was nonex­is­tent. The whole ex­er­cise was about mak­ing points with con­ser­va­tive ide­o­logues, not about pro­tect­ing any­one from a so­ci­etal dan­ger. But the re­ac­tion from across the na­tion was swift and an­gry. Many saw it as in­sti­tu­tional dis­crim­i­na­tion against sev­eral classes of peo­ple — or, more sim­ply, state en­dorse­ment of ha­tred. The NBA moved its All­Star Game out of Char­lotte. The NCAA moved sev­eral tour­na­ment games to other states. Con­ven­tions and busi­ness con­fer­ences were can­celed; cor­po­rate moves here were put on hold. It cost the state hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in lost busi­ness and tax rev­enue.

As the anger con­tin­ued to boil, law­mak­ers rec­og­nized their mis­take and tried to take cor­rec­tive ac­tion. Many of HB2′s pro­vi­sions were re­pealed. But some were left on the books, at least for a few more years. That in­cludes a pro­hi­bi­tion on in­di­vid­ual cities and coun­ties pass­ing anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion or­di­nances that are any more strin­gent or com­pre­hen­sive than the state’s own laws. And state law does not for­bid dis­crim­i­na­tion for sex­ual iden­tity or ori­en­ta­tion. It’s le­gal, in North Carolina, to dis­crim­i­nate against les­bians, gays, bi­sex­u­als and trans­gen­der peo­ple sim­ply be­cause of who or what they are.

And that’s the gift that keeps giv­ing. It may well have been a fac­tor in Ama­zon and Ap­ple de­cid­ing against lo­cat­ing huge new cam­puses in the Tri­an­gle area. It’s enough of a prob­lem that the Char­lotte Re­gional Vis­i­tors Au­thor­ity bud­geted $3 mil­lion over the past two years for “Post HB2 Mar­ket­ing/Sales sup­port.” They wouldn’t be spend­ing that kind of money if there wasn’t a lin­ger­ing prob­lem, and the au­thor­ity’s an­nual re­port noted that six states still ban of­fi­cial travel here be­cause of HB2.

And now, from Wilm­ing­ton, comes this news: Net­flix has de­cided against film­ing a se­ries set on the Outer Banks. The se­ries’ cre­ator, Jonas Pate, had planned to head­quar­ter the pro­duc­tion in Wilm­ing­ton, which only a few years ago was called “Hol­ly­wood East,” the thriv­ing epi­cen­ter of this state’s film in­dus­try. Pate had shot an ear­lier NBC se­ries, “Sur­face,” in Wilm­ing­ton and knew it was per­fect for this one. But be­cause parts of HB2 are still on the books, Net­flix sent Pate south to Charleston to find a suit­able lo­ca­tion there. “This tiny law is cost­ing this town 70 good, clean, pen­sion­pay­ing jobs,” Pate told the StarNews of Wilm­ing­ton, “and also send­ing a mes­sage to those peo­ple who can bring these jobs and more that North Carolina still doesn’t get it.”

Pate be­lieves Net­flix would change its cor­po­rate mind about film­ing “OBX” in Wilm­ing­ton if law­mak­ers would con­sider mov­ing up HB2′s Dec. 1, 2020 sun­set and get­ting rid of its still-dam­ag­ing pro­vi­sions in this year’s ses­sion. “We have a tiny win­dow where this could be pulled out of the fire,” he says.

We hope our law­mak­ers have heard Pate’s plea and will take his ad­vice. Net­flix may be the tip of a costly ice­berg, the con­tin­u­ing back­lash against HB2 that leads many cor­po­ra­tions to avoid this state be­cause of the law’s dis­crim­i­na­tory mes­sage.

Let’s dump what re­mains of this re­ally bad leg­isla­tive idea and get on with ex­pand­ing our econ­omy. Two years of a costly de­ba­cle is enough.

Ob­server file photo

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