Passed through in a special one-day session on March 23, 2016 in only hours, North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act (HB2) is a House bathroom bill stating that individuals must use the restroom corresponding to their birth gender.
Largely seen as a reaction to Charlotte’s Ordinance 7056, which guaranteed non-discrimination of gender in public accommodations or hired vehicles, HB2 drew immediate criticism from multiple groups for numerous reasons. Common criticisms include lack of enforcement guidelines, penalties, rushed composition and passing, lack of dialogue, overreach by government, and potential threats to the safety of transgendered individuals.
An immediate consequence was PayPal backing out of a planned operations center in Charlotte, declaring the bill to be in dissonance with their business philosophy. This alone cost North Carolina over 400 jobs with average salaries around $51,000 a year.
“The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture,” PayPal President and CEO Dan Schulman said in his statement. “As a result, PayPal will not move forward with our planned expansion into Charlotte.”
Other notable corporate pullouts include Red Ventures, Deutsche Bank, Lionsgate’s Crushed Hulu series, and 1MORE USA, Inc.
Notable musicians and bands have cancelled North Carolina concerts in direct response to the bill, costing cities revenue from ticket sales and concertgoer purchasing. Among them are Boston, Pearl Jam, Cirque du Soleil, and Bruce Springsteen.
“To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress,” Springsteen said in an April 8 statement. “Right now, there are many groups, businesses, and individuals in North Carolina working to oppose and overcome these negative developments. Taking all of this into account, I feel that this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters.”
A notable exception was British folk rock band Mumford & Sons, who performed in Charlotte on April 14. The band chose to donate the proceeds of their concert to a fund they set up.
“As a band that relishes welcoming everyone to our shows and promoting tolerance, we do want to take a stand with the people of North Carolina who this week are shouting loudly against intolerance, fear and discrimination,” the band stated in a Facebook announcement a day prior to the show. “Over the years we’ve looked for ways to contribute to the vitality of local communities and, in that spirit, we’re now creating a charitable fund to support those who have made it their mission to pursue love and justice. We will be donating all of our profits from this show to this new fund.”
HB2 has attracted sufficient attention overseas for other nations to comment upon it, such as the United Kingdom’s April 19 travel warning.
“The US is an extremely diverse society, and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country,” read the advisory on the gov.uk Foreign Travel Advice section, “LGBT travellers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi.”
HB2 has attracted legal challenges as well, notably a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Carcaño, et al. v. McCrory, et al, which challenges the bill on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination.
“The mission of the ACLU of NC is to defend and advance the individual freedoms embodied in the United States Constitution, including the rights of LGBT people, to be free from invidious discrimination and infringements on their liberty interests,” the ACLU’s lawsuit summary states. “The ACLU of NC sues on behalf of its members, some of whom are transgender individuals who are barred by H.B. 2 from using restrooms and other facilities in accordance with their gender identity in schools and government buildings, and some of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals who have been stripped of or barred from local non-discrimination protections based on their sexual orientation and sex, including gender identity.”
“In court, on the streets, in schools, and across the country, we will be saying, ‘Enough is enough,’” the ACLU’s separate HB2 statement read.
The US Justice Department declared HB2 to be in violation of Title IX on May 4, which would result in substantial school funding losses.
NC Governor Pat McCrory has so far stood by HB2, responding by filing suit against the United States, citing his belief that the notification relied on a too-broad interpretation of Title IX guidelines. He frames the bill as a response to what he calls ‘overreach’ from the Charlotte ordinance.
“The city of Charlotte passed a bathroom ordinance mandate on every private sector employer in Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the largest, 15th, 16th-largest cities in the United States of America,” McCrory stated in an April 17 NBC Meet the Press segment, “I think that’s government overreach. It’s not government’s business to tell the private sector what their bathroom, locker room, or shower practices should be.”
UNC System President Margaret Spellings stated in a press conference shortly after the bill’s passing, noting that it had negative effects on the UNC system.
“It has cast a chill over the institution,” Spellings stated.
HB2 has been estimated to have cost North Carolina $86.3 million in lost revenue as of April 2016, according to a Center for American Progress study, with the potential for $567.5 million total from companies whose decisions are based on HB2’s repealing.
Future effects remain to be seen, as litigation, debate, and future business actions continue to unfold.