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North Carolina LGBT Turmoil Continues, Costs State Group Business

Sandi Cain
, News Editor
April 22, 2016
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Oceanside CA - As North Carolina legislators stand their ground concerning the Public Facilities & Security Act (HB2), the state’s black eye continues to swell. But the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in a Virginia school case this week may have put the brakes on enforcement of HB2.

Last week, celebrities joined in the fray over the North Carolina bill, with Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr cancelling concerts in Greensboro and Cary respectively. But Laura Jane Grace, leader of punk band Against Me, announced a concert in Durham would go in protest of the legislation. Grace, who is transgender, said she would encourage LGBT groups to hand out literature at the show and will encourage all those who attend to use the gender-neutral restrooms in protest of the legislation.

Cyndi Lauper’s show also will go on in Raleigh. Lauper said she will donate the proceeds from the show toward efforts to repeal the legislation. Meanwhile, Ellen DeGeneres spoke out against the legislation on her show, saying she considered the issue one of human rights.

And just in case anyone has missed the furor since the controversy erupted, a group called “Planting Peace” in Hendersonville NC purchased a billboard that says “Welcome to North Carolina. Due to its stance on LGBT rights, please set your clock back 100 years.”

A more measured statement came from Mayor Esther Manheimer in Asheville, who said the city planned to pass a resolution April 12 expressing disappointment with the state legislature which “over-reached and was inappropriate.” [Did this happen?]

Cities Feel Powerless to Effect Change
Cities could hardly do more, as the new law prohibits individual cities from passing their own anti-discrimination legislation. That provision already hampered Charlottte, which did have anti-discrimination language in its city ordinances that has been nullified by the state’s action.

The U.S. Appeals Court ruling called the Virginia law requiring students to use the bathroom of their birth gender a violation of Title IX, the federal law that grants students the right to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. The Fourth Circuit Court hears cases from several states, including North Carolina.

But that relief might not  bring back the money already lost or eliminate the ill will toward the state’s policies. The Greater Raleigh CVB late last week said it had already lost $732,000 due to cancellations as of April 17 and that if the measure is not repealed, it could cost up to $24 million in money that would have flowed into the local economy.

Among those that have cancelled are the International Association of Security and Investigative Regulators, Johnstone Supply, the Matria Tech Leadership Conference and the N.C. State Library Conference, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

Prior to the federal court ruling, the bureau said 16 groups were still considering whether they would move and a four-year contract for a major sports tournament worth $0.5 million annually could be lost through relocation. 

 

As of April 21, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority reported seven cancelled events; 13 groups that were in the final stages of booking but decided not to sign contracts with Charlotte; and 36 potential groups that said they were hesitant or concerned about bringing a group to Charlotte. According to figures from the CVB, the projected direct spending for these 70 groups is $86.5 million. 

Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) CEO Tom Murray said in an emailed statement to TSE that, “This issue is in danger of setting us back from the progress we’ve made in positioning Charlotte as an attractive, inclusive destination.” 

Charlotte Has 20-Year Track Record of Embracing Diversity

Murray added that the CRVA continues to hear negative feedback and could see more cancellations as a result of these actions, despite a 20-year track record of building a thriving and welcoming visitor economy that embraces diversity.

“We are extremely concerned about the state legislation in place,” Murray said, and urged that “state and local leaders find a resolution that represents the best interests of our city and state.”

Still, some state legislators defend the legislation and are convinced it won’t hurt business. State Representative Nelson Dollar told the News Observer that for every group that cancels, another will book. And State Representative Paul Stam said it was no big deal that Johnstone Supply pulled out because their event wasn’t scheduled until 2018 so there’s plenty of time to replace that business. 

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said he would take a look at how the federal ruling would affect existing law and policy.

Reach Tom Murray at (704) 334-2282 or tom.murray@crva.com; Visit Charlotte at (704) 334-2282 or mike.butts@visitcharlotte.com;

Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau (919) 645-2656 or dedwards@visitraleigh.com

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