North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature, which earlier this year passed a bill curbing legal protections for LGBT people, met in a special session last week to repeal the law — and then failed to do so.
The Republicans had plenty of reasons to revisit HB2, which they passed in March. It included a provision mandating that transgender people use public restrooms that correspond to their gender at birth and not their gender identity — which violated federal anti-discrimination protections. It also barred cities in North Carolina from passing their own ordinances protecting LGBT rights. The city of Charlotte had done just that, igniting the issue.
As a starter, by flying in the face of federal standards, Republican lawmakers put at risk of billions in federal aid for education, housing, highways, etc. And, of course, on the human level, they rammed through a discriminatory law that has no place in 21st-century America.
The federal funds have not yet been cut, as a federal civil-rights suit against the state plays out. But North Carolina already has paid in many other ways. In response to HB2, companies announced they had ditched, or at least delayed, plans to open new operations in the state. PayPal, for one, canceled plans to build a $3.5 million complex in Charlotte, which would have created up to 500 jobs, according to the company. Deutsche Bank put the brakes on a 250-job expansion in the city of Cary.
In addition, the National Basketball Association moved the 2017 All-Star game out of Charlotte; Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Pearl Jam, Cirque du Soleil, world-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman and other entertainers canceled concerts; and many LGBT tourists and their sympathizers are boycotting North Carolina.
Though Donald Trump won North Carolina, the incumbent GOP governor who championed HB2, Pat McCrory, was defeated by Democrat Roy Cooper. Anger over HB2 was cited as the primary reason.
In other words, many Americans — both outside the state and in — are saying to North Carolina’s Republicans: “No, we don’t live in that kind of country anymore.” Many — not just progressives — support the inroads made against discrimination over the past 50 years, particularly for reasons of race, gender and sexual orientation. The election of the first African-American president — twice — and a conservative U.S. Supreme Court that confirmed the right to same-sex marriage were moments of pride for many in this nation. Backtracking is hard, if not impossible, for them to accept. In truth, no on should accept it.
Meanwhile, what has happened in North Carolina provokes speculation about the near future, not just there but across the nation. Mr. Trump won the Electoral College tally, but lost the popular vote by 2.8 million. He has taken positions on issues like immigration, energy, the environment, abortion that are passionately opposed by many of those who voted against him. He has named aggressive conservatives to his Cabinet to carry out those policies.
How will those citizens react to government actions they oppose? Will they exercise influence the way business owners, national organizations and individuals have in the case of North Carolina? Will they use their economic power to exercise their opposition? Will they raise their voices and take to the streets in peaceful protest as has happened in North Carolina?
We sure hope so.