NC’s HB2: Is it getting hot in here?


House Bill 2 (HB2), North Carolina’s new anti-LGBT law is drawing lots of fire from inside and outside the state. New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and West Palm Beach have banned travel to North Carolina for their employees. Apple, Biogen, PayPal, IBM, and the NBA have condemned the law. Plus Dow Chemical, Google, Bayer, the NCAA, and others. The press center for the annual High Point furniture trade show announced Monday that “dozens of customers have contacted the High Point Market Authority to inform us that they have cancelled plans to attend the Market in April due to passage of HB2.”

Yesterday, former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. criticized HB2 as “inappropriate, unnecessary legislation that will hurt North Carolina.” The Charlotte-based Bank of America was a major player in the financial crisis in 2008, but still figures prominently among the state’s employers. McColl’s criticism will not help McCrory, Charlotte’s former mayor.

NC Attorney General Roy Cooper held a press conference yesterday morning to announce his office would not defend the bill in court, calling HB2 “a national embarrassment” at odds with his office’s employment policies. Cooper explained, “In order to protect our non-discrimination policy and employees, along with those of our client, the State Treasurer’s Office, part of our argument will be that HB2 is unconstitutional.” Cooper, a Democrat, is also running for governor this fall against Republican incumbent Pat McCrory who signed HB2 into law last week.

Feeling the heat by Friday, McCrory felt he had to clear the air about HB2 by issuing a press release: “Myths vs Facts: What New York Times, Huffington Post and other media outlets aren’t saying about common-sense privacy law.”

Discrimination? It’s just common sense, by jingo, with a double dip of Real-American, flag-wavin’ freedom and a big dollop of liberty on top. McCrory’s Q&A-style FAQ drew quick parodies, such as this one by Aaron Keck of Durham:

Give him credit! McCrory’s FAQ page gets a couple things wrong – for instance, he says “nothing changes in North Carolina cities,” which isn’t right, and he says the bill doesn’t “take away existing protections for individuals in North Carolina,” though in fact it does – but in general, most of what’s there is technically correct.

Only thing is, he forgot a few questions.

So let’s take care of that.

1. Now that House Bill 2 has passed, is it legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians in North Carolina?

Yes. Sections 3.1 and 3.3 of the bill prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, and biological sex. (Section 3.1 also bans discrimination on the basis of age or disability, but only when it comes to employment practices.) Sexual orientation is not included as a category, so it is, in fact, legal now to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Here’s the full text of the bill, if you want to read it for yourself.

2. What does that mean in practice?

You can be fired for being gay. You can be demoted for being gay. Employers can refuse to hire you for being gay. They can refuse to promote you for being gay. Businesses can refuse to serve you for being gay.

3. If someone wants to discriminate against gays and lesbians, do they have to claim a “sincere religious objection,” like in the Indiana law last year that caused such a fuss?

No. State law allows people to discriminate against gays and lesbians for any reason they like.

Skipping down to the snark:

9. Rrgh! Okay, how about Republicans? Is it legal to discriminate against Republicans?

All right, smart-aleck.

10. No, seriously. Can I ban Republicans from eating in my restaurant?

Well…actually, yes. But not because of House Bill 2. Party affiliation has never been a protected class, so technically you’ve always been able to do that.

In fact, Keck points out what N.C. NAACP President, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II observed when he appeared on MSNBC. In addition to targeting the LGBT community, HB2 “makes it illegal for a city or county to require contractors to pay more than a minimum wage.” Furthermore, HB2 nullifies the ability of citizens to bring an employment or public accommodation discrimination case in state court, it must be done in federal court. It is “bad and unholy and immoral.”

McCrory “needs votes right now more than he needs campaign donations,” writes James Hohmann for the Washington Post. He and his fellow Republicans are betting reelection on throwing gasoline on the culture war fire. Plus, as Elias Isquith
notes at Salon, with Art Pope as a benefactor, money is less of a worry for McCrory.

Transgender people began posting their photos on Twitter to make their voices heard and their points made. Not that McCrory or the extremists in the legislature are listening.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaoo.)

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