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North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. — PHOTO: Courtesy

Backlash builds after N.C. enacts anti-LGBT law

Georgia's governor used his veto power to reject a bill intended to permit discrimination under the guise of religious beliefs.

So did Virginia's governor.

But North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has signed into law HB 2, legislation that rolls back an anti-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte and preempts any efforts in other municipalities to protect LGBT people from bias.

“The extraordinary measures that lawmakers are peddling take different forms and claim to address different needs, but they all boil down to the same thing: Authorizing discrimination against LGBT people and halting progress in its tracks,” said ACLU senior staff attorney Rose Saxe. “The only problem that needs solving is to stop those who claim to represent us from authorizing discrimination that is out of line with the American public, the business and sports communities and the majority of us who believe in equality.”

In a single day, the anti-LGBT legislation was introduced, debated and signed into law in North Carolina.

The new law prohibits enactment of local anti-discrimination ordinances and obligates transgender people, including public school students, to use restrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates, not necessarily the gender with which they identify.

McCrory, in defending his action, claimed, “We have not taken away any rights that have currently existed in any city in North Carolina.”

Backlash was immediate.

Broad backlash

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee banned government employees from nonessential travel. So did Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“From Stonewall to marriage equality, our state has been a beacon of hope and equality for the LGBT community and we will not stand idly by as misguided legislation replicates the discrimination of the past,” Cuomo said. “As long as there is a law in North Carolina that creates the grounds for discrimination against LGBT people, I am barring nonessential state travel to that state.”

Hundreds of national companies — from Airbnb to Zynga — lined up in opposition. In a letter to McCrory, business leaders wrote, “Discrimination is wrong and we believe it has no place in North Carolina or anywhere in our country. As companies that pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge you and the leadership of North Carolina’s legislature to repeal this law in the upcoming legislative session.”

The NFL indicated Atlanta could lose bids for the Super Bowl in 2019 and 2020 while Walt Disney and Marvel Studios threatened to stay away from the state.

Plus, powerhouse Georgia companies, led by Coca-Cola, also opposed the new law.

Additionally, a coalition of civil rights groups — Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina and Equality North Carolina — turned to federal court and sued. The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, alleges:

  • HB 2 sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect and protections afforded others in the state.
  • HB 2 is unconstitutional, violating the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14 Amendment because it discriminates based on sex and sexual orientation and is an invasion of privacy for transgender people.
  • HB 2 violates Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees based on sex. The law could cost the state about $4.5 billion in federal funding under Title IX.

The lawsuit names McCrory as a defendant, as well as the North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and the University of North Carolina.

But as the suit was being filed, Cooper said he would refuse to enforce the law because it is not constitutional. He called HB 2 a "national embarrassment" that "will set North Carolina's economy back if we don't repeal it.”

Vetoes in Virginia, Georgia

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed SB 41, legislation he said would legalize discrimination against LGBT people. The GOP-backed bill would have prohibited the state from penalizing entities that refuse services related to same-sex marriage.

The ACLU said the bill would have allowed a religiously connected hospital to refuse to recognize a married gay or lesbian person as a spouse for medical decision-making or visitation rights or allowed a government-funded homeless shelter to refuse shelter to a gay couple and their children.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, vetoed a similar bill.

Deal said he vetoed HB 757 to prevent discrimination and protect commerce. The proposal would have allowed people, businesses and faith organizations to deny services to people based on "sincerely held religious beliefs."

"If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should heed the ‘hands-off’ admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution,” Deal said.

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