In April NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would move its 2017 all-star game out of Charlotte if state officials did not make major changes to HB2, the sweeping anti-LGBT legislation passed by the General Assembly in a rushed one-day special session in March and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.
The General Assembly adjourned three weeks ago without making major changes to the law and Thursday the NBA announced it was pulling the game, costing the Charlotte area as much as $100 million in lost economic activity.
Gov. McCrory lashed out in anger in a statement reacting to the news, blaming the “sports and entertainment elite,” Attorney General Roy Cooper, and the liberal media for the NBA keeping its word.
He also bashed “left wing special interest groups,” and “selective corporate elite.” McCrory’s campaign even blamed Hillary Clinton since a former advisor for President Bill Clinton now works for the NBA.
It is apparently everybody else’s fault even though McCrory signed the bill and the NBA made plain its intentions three months ago.
McCrory’s statement also talked again about bathroom privacy for children, referring to provisions in HB2 that overturned part of a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that allowed transgender people to use the public facilities that correspond to gender identity.
That’s been the focus of McCrory and other supporters of HB2 since it was passed, claiming it puts women and children at risk of having their privacy invaded in restrooms or even puts them in danger somehow from sexual predators.
Never mind that more than 200 local governments, including 17 of the 20 largest cities in country, have ordinances similar to Charlotte’s in place and have had no problems.
And HB2 goes far beyond bathrooms. It creates a statewide nondiscrimination standard that not only doesn’t guarantee protections for LGBT people, it includes the term “biological sex.”
Federal courts and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have interpreted sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity. McCrory’s law goes out of its way to make sure that LGBT people in North Carolina are not protected from discrimination.
HB2 also prohibits any Charlotte and any other local government from passing their own LGBT nondiscrimination protections.
That’s why the NBA is moving the all-star game out of Charlotte and why 68 corporations, including Red Hat, Apple, and Google, recently signed on to a lawsuit challenging the law.
It is not about bathrooms. It’s about LGBT people having the same rights as everybody else, protections from being fired or denied services simply because they are gay or bisexual or transgender.
Gov. McCrory may not want to talk about it, but he signed into law and continues to defend legislation that allows restaurants and hotels and taxis to refuse to serve gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Neither he nor any of the other defenders of HB2 who claim to support equal rights demanded that state lawmakers change the divisive law this session by passing a statewide nondiscrimination standard that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
That’s because the far-right religious groups behind HB2 don’t believe in equal rights for LGBT people. House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam even disputes the existence of sexual orientation, equating it bizarrely to polygamy and adultery.
That’s what the NBA’s decision is really all about, the rejection of the state’s support and codification of discrimination in North Carolina.
McCrory can send out as many mean-spirited Trumpian news releases as he wants, but NBA officials did what they said they would do.
And as damaging as their decision is to the state’s economy and already battered reputation around the world, it was not a surprise.
Neither sadly was McCrory’s disappointing reaction.
HB2 continues to damage North Carolina. And it is his law.
Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.