Charlotte mayor visits Raleigh to discuss controversial HB2

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts was in Raleigh Tuesday to speak to advocates about North Carolina's controversial new nondiscrimination law.

They discussed the next steps they can take against the bill that overturned protection for the LGBT community in Charlotte. Roberts will be discussing what can be done to show opposition to the new law, which has prompted backlash from local towns to the White House.

Cities and states across the country are speaking out against the controversial House Bill 2.

Mayors in New York City, Seattle, West Palm Beach and San Francisco have banned city travel to North Carolina. The governor of New York has also banned non-essential state travel to N.C.

On Monday, the White House came out against this new law, saying they are concerned about its potentially harmful impact, especially on transgender youth.

The law leaves out discrimination protections for the LGBT community and requires transgender people to use public bathrooms assigned to their biological sex.

Some are concerned the attention North Carolina is receiving will cause tourism to suffer.

Two transgender people and a lesbian law school professor filed a federal lawsuit Monday to challenge the new law. The three people, along with several civil liberties groups, wasted little time challenging the law, which was approved last week by the legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

(Click here to read the ACLU's lawsuit)

“HB 2 is hurtful and demeaning. I just want to go to work and live my life. This law puts me in the terrible position of either going into the women’s room where I clearly don’t belong or breaking the law,” said plaintiff Joaquín Carcaño. “But this is about more than bathrooms, this is about my job, my community, and my ability to get safely through my day and be productive like everyone else in North Carolina.”

North Carolina lawmakers approved and Republican Gov. Pat McGrory signed legislation last week voiding a Charlotte ordinance that would have provided wide protections against discrimination in public accommodations.

"It is (not only) the wide-ranging discrimination this bill is encouraging but also the manner in which this bill was passed," said ACLU of North Carolina spokesman Mike Meno. "It just flies in the face of democracy."

Meno added, “And in 12 hours at a cost of $42,000 to taxpayers, the legislature and Gov. McCrory not only took away those protections but took away the ability of any local government in our state to offer those protections.”

McCrory is downplaying the criticism, saying there has been a distortion of facts. His office released the following statement Monday:

"To counter a coordinated national effort to mislead the public, intimidate our business community and slander our great state, the governor will continue to set the record straight on a common sense resolution to local government overreach that imposed new regulations on businesses that intruded into the personal lives of our citizens. The non-discrimination policies in place today in cities like Raleigh, Greensboro and Asheville and in every business in North Carolina are the same as they were last month and last year. Where was this coordinated outrage and media attention when the original bathroom ordinance was defeated in Charlotte just last year? The governor looks forward to cheering for the UNC Tar Heels in the NCAA Final Four being played in Houston, a city that defeated a similar bathroom ordinance referendum last year with over 61 percent of the vote."

Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Kellie Fiedorek also released a statement following the filing of the lawsuit:

“The privacy rights and safety of North Carolina citizens shouldn’t be cast aside or used as a political pawn for special interest groups that desire to impose their agenda to create a genderless society. Part of that agenda now includes challenging a commonsense law that ensures grown men don’t shower and use the bathroom next to little girls. This law protects everyone’s privacy by ensuring that bathrooms, showers, locker rooms, and other intimate settings remain private and based on one’s biological sex while also offering accommodations to those with special circumstances. The threat that schools will lose funding in implementing this sensible standard is simply false. Title IX specifically allows schools to ‘provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex.’ No school has ever lost funding in the nearly 44 years since Title IX became law, and federal courts have ruled in favor of schools that have adopted privacy policies similar to this—making clear that Title IX does not require schools to open up restrooms to members of the opposite sex.”

In addition to enabling transgender people to legally use restrooms aligned with their gender identity, the Charlotte ordinance would have provided broad protections against discrimination in public accommodations in the state's largest city.

With the law, North Carolina became the first state to require public school and university students to use only those bathrooms that match their birth certificates, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

Advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights say state legislators demonized them with bogus claims about bathroom risks. Supporters say the new law protects all people from having to share bathrooms with people who make them feel unsafe.

Lawsuit defendants include McCrory and the University of North Carolina system, where one plaintiff works and another attends college. The system's 17 campuses also must comply with the law.

Another defendant is Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat who has criticized the law and wants it repealed. He is challenging McCrory this fall for governor. Cooper is a defendant because his office defends the state in litigation.

Two plaintiffs — UNC-Chapel Hill employee Joaquin Carcano of Carrboro and Payton Grey McGarry, a student at UNC-Greensboro — were born female and now consider themselves male but have not changed their birth certificates.

The lawsuit says Carcano used a designated men's restroom at work and McGarry used a campus locker room without any problems before the law was passed. Using women's restrooms could cause them anxiety and fear, the lawsuit reads. Now they'll have to search for bathrooms in other buildings or at local businesses, according to the lawsuit.

Forcing McGarry "to use the women's restroom would also cause substantial harm to his mental health and well-being," the lawsuit reads. "It would also force him to disclose to others the fact that he is transgender, which itself could lead to violence and harassment."

“The rhetoric on display last week by some members of our legislature showed just how transparent their anti-LGBT motives were. Not only did they keep the bill language secret until the morning it was introduced but it only took 12 hours to pass and sign into law a bill with terrible consequences for thousands of North Carolinians. North Carolina may also now face a loss of federal education funding, revenue from businesses that relocate or choose not to set-up shop here, and potential income-generating sporting and entertainment events,” said Chris Sgro, Executive Director of Equality NC, the statewide LGBT advocacy group. “Now is the time to be on the right side of history, because together we will show the politicians that North Carolina refuses to be a leader in bigotry.”

Reporter DaShawn Brown talked to Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts by phone and asked about the NBA All-Star weekend next year and if Charlotte is at risk of losing the game.

“Well I think we need to take it seriously and we are going to be in conversation through the Hornets and the NBA to talk about the fact that Charlotte stepped up and had those protections in place,” Roberts said. “We are a welcoming community, those are the values we have here.”

On his social media account, Charlotte Sen. Jeff Jackson said his first order of business in April is getting the General Assembly to fix what he called an overreach.

The law also prevents cities and counties from passing anti-discrimination rules and imposes a statewide standard that leaves out protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

McCrory said he signed the bill because the privacy and safety of children is his top priority. He said there are many misconceptions about the law and what it does, and doesn't do.

Small business owner embraces LGBT community

Small businesses are welcoming the LGBT community across Charlotte including Salud Beer Shop in NoDa.

“I feel it’s important for everybody to feel equal and welcome wherever they are at,” shop owner Jason Glunt posted on Instagram.

State lawmakers overturned Charlotte's LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance and went further to exclude gays and lesbians from discrimination protections.

That led to backlash from major corporations, including from the NBA that said its re-evaluating having the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte.

“I think that would be horrible for the city, but it sends a message,” Glunt said.

Indiana experienced a loss of revenue after state legislators passed a similar religious freedom law.

Tourism officials in Indianapolis believe it may have cost the city 12 conventions and $60 million before Indiana lawmakers amended it.

In Georgia, Disney and Marvel Studios are threatening to stop film production if the state's governor signs its own religious freedom bill into law.

Several corporations have criticized North Carolina’s stand on LGBT rights, and it’s unclear how it will impact the state’s economic future.

Statement from the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority:

"We are extremely concerned about the state legislation in place as we continue to hear negative feedback and potential event cancelations from our customers. Our city has worked incredibly hard to build a thriving visitor economy over the last 20 years, which has welcomed major events and conventions that greatly give back to the city and the state of North Carolina's economy and overall quality of life. This issue is in danger of setting us back from the progress we've made in positioning Charlotte as an attractive, inclusive destination. Our city has long had a track record of creating an environment that not only values diversity, but strongly embraces it. On behalf of the visitor economy that represents one in nine jobs across the Charlotte region, we strongly urge that state and local leaders find a resolution that represents the best interests of our city and state."

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