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Will NCGOP’s Slate of Anti-Trans Bills Lead to HB2-Level Fallout For North Carolina?

Source: Editorial Board, Winston-Salem Journal

Proving that they’ve learned nothing from the past and don’t actually care about our state’s future, North Carolina Republicans are setting us all up to deal with the (rightful) backlash that will likely result from a slate of anti-trans bills they are intent on passing this spring.

It’s only been seven years since the “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act,” commonly known as House Bill 2 or HB2, passed in the state legislature and was signed into law by then-Gov. Pat McCrory in March 2016.

Admittedly, seven years is a lifetime in politics so perhaps the NCGOP has forgotten about the sheer embarrassment HB2 caused the state, not to mention the billions of dollars it ended up costing North Carolina when companies, entertainers, businesses and sporting events pulled out of holding events in the state because of the bill. 

Some of the state’s HB2-related losses included PayPal dropping plans for a Charlotte facility that would have added nearly $3 billion to the state’s economy, artists like Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen canceling their concerts, the NBA moving the All-Star game out of Charlotte, and the NCAA pulling multiple championship events from the state. According to an Associated Press analysis in March 2017, HB2 was expected to cost North Carolina $3.76 billion over a dozen years. Even when the bill was partially repealed in March 2017, there were some estimates that showed the state had lost out on $630 million in economic activity just in the one year that HB2 was the law.

With that in mind, Republicans are now headed down the same path with their anti-trans legislation. Sadly, this is a different America and a different North Carolina than it was in 2016 when North Carolina was nearly alone in passing anti-trans legislation. These days, in our post-Trump America, it’s almost a faux pas for legislatures in red states not to target transgender people with hateful and harmful legislation.

According to Winston-Salem Journal, Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) said he is concerned that SB 631 and similar transgender-focused Republican legislation could destroy the state’s economic momentum that has resulted in the Tar Heel state being named as one of the top places to live and work in multiple studies.

“I believe it is safe to say we have recruited companies and created thousands of jobs because we actually avoided political controversy,” Chaudhuri said.

He’s not alone in feeling that way.

The economic impact “of passing anti-transgender laws that impact less than 1% of the population simply does not make financial sense, and we call on the business community to join us in opposing all anti-LGBTQ legislation in North Carolina,” said Jennifer Ruppe, executive director of Guilford Green Foundation & LGBTQ Center.

In order to address potential economic fallout, Chaudhuri submitted an amendment during the debate on SB 631 that would cancel the legislation if any corporation receiving state economic incentives stopped adding jobs because of the law.

The law would also expire if any of these six sports organizations issued a public statement against the legislation: Atlantic Coast Conference, NASCAR, NCAA, PGA Tour, PGA of America and U.S. Golf Association.

The amendment was tabled by the NCGOP, meaning that it was defeated and cannot be debated again.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported that Chaudhuri cited recent business climate surveys that called HB2 a “lingering socioeconomic shadow over North Carolina.” He said that SB 631 “puts us on the path where we risk our No. 1 ranking as the state best to do business in.”

Sen. Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell) accused Chaudhuri of making a “political play” by expressing concern over potential economic impacts.

To get a better idea of what Republicans are trying to do, here’s a look at six of the bills they have introduced that are focused on harming transgender children in North Carolina:

  • Senate Bill 631 and its House companion bill, HB 574, ban trans students from participating on an athletic team that aligns with their gender.
  • Senate Bill 636 bans trans and intersex youth from participating in athletics at the middle and high school levels.
  • Senate Bill 560 restricts gender-affirming care for minors and introduces unnecessary requirements for youth, families, and health care providers.
  • Senate Bill 639 outlaws life-saving treatment for trans youth by making it illegal for health professionals to provide gender-affirming care.
  • Senate Bill 641 allows medical providers to discriminate in providing health care to trans youth.

In addition to those bills specifically targeting children, Republicans have also introduced House Bill 673, titled “Clarify Regulations on Adult Entertainment,” which would ban people from performing in drag while in public or when around minors. 

The bill would put drag performers (or “male or female impersonators,” as the bill says) in the same category as “topless dancers, exotic dancers [and] strippers.”

A person who violates the law would be guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class I felony for the second or subsequent offenses. Class A1 misdemeanors include crimes such as assault on a female, assault with a deadly weapon, child abuse, and sexual battery. Class I felonies are considered the “least serious” class of felony and include crimes such as possession of marijuana, breaking or entering motor vehicles and credit card theft.

Tony Plath, a retired finance professor at UNC-Charlotte, told Winston-Salem Journal that he expects more pushback against the state over these bills than over HB2 in 2016 due to North Carolina’s status as a purple state and the fact that pro-trans rights advocates have become “increasingly emboldened.”

“This time around, in contrast to 2016, the conservatives are likely to fight back, and fight more effectively, even with the potential reputational damage we will likely face … the business boycotts we might experience … and the loss of future business prospects and recruiting opportunities,” he said.


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