In February, Charlotte’s city council voted to expand its LGBT anti-discrimination laws so that transgender people could use the bathroom designated for the gender with which they identified.
As a result, the state of North Carolina approved new legislation that would stop cities from passing anti-discrimination laws at the local level. This new bill, House Bill 2 (HB2), effectively legalizes discrimination against lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people.
- Going forward, transgender men will be forced to use women’s bathrooms, and transgender women will be forced to use men’s.
- Private businesses will be legally allowed to discriminate against LGBT people in terms of the services they provide and their hiring practices.
- Local governments can’t do anything to prevent that discrimination at the local level, and all nondiscrimination ordinances local governments had previously passed are now null.
In the weeks since HB2 passed, there’s been an incredible nationwide outcry against the bill, and not just from individuals and politicians – corporations, national sports entities, musicians, and more are speaking out and taking action too.
In early April, over 80 executives from major U.S. corporations, including Apple, Goldman Sachs, GE, Coca-Cola, Uber, American Express, IBM, and Google (just to name a few) wrote a letter to Governor Pat McCrory opposing the bill. Part of it stated:
Put simply, HB2 is not a bill that reflects the values of our companies, of our country, or even the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians.
We are disappointed in your decision to sign this discriminatory legislation into law. The business community, by and large, has consistently communicated to lawmakers at every level that such laws are bad for our employees and bad for business. This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development.
Through this letter and continued public condemnation, these companies are making it clear that they do not intend to continue to grow their businesses in a state that practices discrimination.
Some companies have taken it a step further, actually taking concrete steps to distance themselves and their businesses from the state. Here are a few:
In response to HB2, the entire community of Certified B Corporations, comprised of almost 1,700 businesses and corporations worldwide (including WhyWhisper), decided to relocate a series of large-scale events that were to take place in North Carolina. These events included the annual global gathering of B Corp CEOs and executives; a series of public talks and a street festival called B Inspired; a conference for the economic development arms of city governments, corporate supply chain managers, and impact investors called Measure What Matters; and a conference for university educators teaching business as a force for good.
Their main reason for doing so?
- HB2 is contrary to B Corp values.
- They won’t ask members of their community to travel to a place where they might feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
- They believe that relocating and engaging on the issue can have a direct impact on the change they seek.
It’s important to note that to make this decision, they designed and implemented a process that gave all B Corp stakeholders a voice, so as to “reach a decision that was in the best interest of the global B Corp community.” To further incentivize positive change, they concluded by sharing that they will reconsider their decision if the bill is repealed by June 30th.
GV, the early and middle stage investment arm of Google’s Alphabet, took a major stand against HB2 when it pledged not to invest in any companies from North Carolina until the bill is repealed. After GV CEO Bill Maris signed the letter to McCrory, he asked GV’s partners to “please flag any investments in NC that come through as I am not comfortable deploying dollars into startups there until the voters there fix this.” Maris, who is from North Carolina, hopes that this decision will further encourage North Carolina lawmakers to repeal the discriminatory bill.
It’s important to mention that GV, with $2.4 billion under management, had recently started focusing on investing in life sciences companies, a sector that is huge in North Carolina. As such, GV’s decision could have huge economic ramifications for the state.
In March, PayPal announced that it would be developing a new operations center in Charlotte, which would employ more than 400 people. Less than a month later, after publicly condemning HB2 and calling for its repeal, the company’s chief, Dan Schulman, announced that the discriminatory bill violated PayPal’s core values and principles, and that they would not be moving forward with the new operations center.
This is a huge loss for Charlotte, as the new center had big goals for job creation that were tied to incentives around funding for community college training. PayPal intended to invest $3.6 million in its new center, and average annual salary for the 400 new employees would have been $56,000.
Lionsgate Entertainment opted to pull production of a new series that was meant to be filmed in Charlotte. Instead, the show will now be filmed in Vancouver. Production was scheduled to begin this month, a change that will undoubtedly lead to rather abrupt local job loss.
Lionsgate issued a letter in response to the passing of HB2, stating “We will be hard pressed to continue our relationship with North Carolina if this regressive law remains on the books.” In addition, Rob Reiner, who directed well-known films like When Harry Met Sally and The Princess Bride, won’t be filming in North Carolina until the bill is repealed, and he’s encouraging his entertainment industry colleagues to follow suit.
These are just a few of the many corporations that are taking a stand against HB2. And these companies are not alone. Musicians and bands like Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam have opted to cancel their tour stops in North Carolina, while Cyndi Lauper has pledged to donate all proceeds from her Raleigh show to initiatives that are working to overturn HB2. The NCAA has also made it clear that it is considering relocating events that had previously been held in the state.
North Carolina has already started to see economic consequences as a result of the actions being taken – consequences that will only worsen as time goes on.
And while it hasn’t yet been overtly stated, it’s highly likely that the strong reaction from corporations and influencers is already affecting change: Lawmakers recently announced that they are willing to discuss changing portions of the bill. McCrory has even gone so far as to issue an executive order that proposes small changes to the law. These changes include altering the equal employment policy to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and allowing people to bring discrimination cases to court. That said, the law will otherwise remain largely the same, and McCrory and his team are holding strong on the discriminatory bathroom provision.
When it comes to that particular provision, however, there is some hope. This week, a federal appeals court allowed a transgender high school student in Richmond to proceed with his lawsuit against his school board, which argues that their decision to ban him from using the men’s restroom is discriminatory. This decision marks the first time a federal appeals court has ruled for such protections for transgender students. Because the case has been appealed to the 4th Circuit, which includes North Carolina, this decision could affect HB2 as well.
We all know corporations wield great power and influence in every sector, which is why it’s so important that they pay attention to these kinds of issues. When companies stand up against injustice, it results in positive change, and we applaud these businesses, in particular, for taking a stand on HB2.
Do you know of a corporation that effectively took a stand against injustice? Share with us! We want to know about them. Here’s how: