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NC Senate President Berger Sends Misleading Letter to CEOs, Doubles Down on Anti-LGBT HB2

by Stephen Peters April 29, 2016


Further compounding the HB2 economic catastrophe that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore inflicted on the state when they rammed the dangerous legislation through in less than a day, they are now doubling down on their refusal to listen to the business community. While CEOs and business leaders have spoken with one voice over the past six weeks, calling on North Carolina leaders to repeal HB2, Senator Berger has sent a letter to corporate leaders defending his discriminatory HB2 law.

The letter, sent just before the state legislature returned to session, inherently acknowledges what an economic disaster HB2 has been for the state as companies look to protect their employees and consumers from discrimination and harm. It also contains the worst of the lies and misinformation Senator Berger has been peddling over the last six weeks.

HRC has taken the liberty of redlining Senator Berger’s letter with the truth and publishing it here.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said, “Senator Berger is defending the indefensible. He knows HB2 is an unmitigated disaster that strikes at the basic rights and dignity of North Carolinians. In the face of so many business voices denouncing the bill and calling for its full repeal, Senator Berger is desperately digging in even further.  He is  lying about local laws and recycling dangerous myths about transgender people that have been soundly rejected by both the business community and fair-minded North Carolinians.”

Matt Hirschy, Director of Advancement, Equality NC, said, "It is disheartening to see Senator Berger use the same misinformation that has dominated so much of the debate leading to the passing of the discriminatory House Bill 2. He appears to think that these executives, companies and their collective attorneys don't fully understand the intention or focus of the bill when in fact they are very aware and worried. Furthermore, Senator Berger claims that ‘one of those narratives misstates the impact of the law’, yet he is quick to dismiss the countless people coming out against HB2 who are negatively affected by the bill. We urge the Senator to meet with the transgender North Carolinians who now fear for their safety and meet with the mothers whose children are being bullied at school because of this harmful law. We implore the Senator to really listen to his constituents, not just the ones that he is counting on at the polls in November."

Here are some major points to consider regarding claims in Berger’s letter and other communications from proponents of HB2:

  • Berger Claim: Charlotte's ordinance mandated gender-neutral bathrooms FALSE   Charlotte joined 18 states and more than 100 cities -- including Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, Louisville, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Dallas, and nearly every other major city in the country - by passing a non-discrimination ordinance. Nothing in the ordinance required a bathroom to be gender-neutral. Gov. McCrory’s repeated assertions that HB2 is about keeping men out of women's restrooms is simply a lie.  Transgender women are women, and should have access to women's restrooms.
  • Berger Claim: Charlotte's ordinance raised serious safety concerns FALSE  This is a tired and entirely unfounded trope that opponents of equality have trotted out in jurisdictions across the country. Tens of millions of people in this country are covered by laws that prohibit discrimination in places of public accommodation on the basis of gender identity without problems. Law enforcement officials have spoken out against bills like HB2.  Asserting that gender identity non-discrimination protections pose dangers is offensive. Transgender people should not and must not be conflated with sexual predators. Men who are sexual predators will not have increased access to restrooms -- if they identify as men they'll still be required to use the men's room.  Characterizing this law as a way to enable or protect sexual predators is ludicrous. Sexual predators engage in behavior that is, was, and always will be illegal -- and this law doesn't change that.
  • Berger Claim: HB2 allows reasonable North Carolinians to solve complicated issues without government interference FALSE  HB2 is the very definition of government interference. Charlotte spent two years considering and vetting an ordinance; candidates ran for re-election on the promise of passing such an ordinance, and were voted into office by voters who wanted them to pass such an ordinance. They passed an ordinance similar to laws in 18 states.  Sen. Berger and Gov. McCrory responded by hastily convening a special session in which the General Assembly took almost no testimony, considered the matter for less than 10 hours it was approved, and signed by the governor that same day.  
  • Berger Claim: This law allows North Carolina businesses to adopt whatever workplace and accommodation policies they may choose PARTLY FALSE The Charlotte ordinance is primarily about places of public accommodation. Workplace policies were only implicated if an employer had or wanted to have a contract with the city of Charlotte. Invoking workplace policies is a red herring, Many businesses already have their own policies prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and the EEOC has determined that employers covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act have similar non-discrimination obligations under federal law.  Some businesses that were covered by the ordinance in Charlotte are now free to discriminate in public accommodations if they so choose.  However, HB2 now forces private businesses leasing property owned by the state, state agency, city, or other public agency -- including the airports, convention centers, office space or otherwise - to discriminate in the provision of restroom facilities. Schools are also now required to discriminate against transgender students in the provision of facilities -- a situation unprecedented in the country.  
  • Berger Claim: Much of the opposition to House Bill 2 has rested on a false premise: namely, that a decision not expanding current law beyond protections existing in federal law and a majority of statements is an endorsement of discrimination ABSOLUTELY FALSE  It continues to be clear that Sen. Berger, Gov. McCrory and Speaker Moore either don’t understand what this law does or are intentionally lying about it.  HB2 does not restore the status quo. That is a lie.  It is the first bill in American history to force transgender people to use a bathroom inconsistent with their gender identity. It is an unprecedented effort to write anti-transgender discrimination into law. HB2 is motivated by anti-LGBT animus, particularly toward transgender people.  Writing anti-transgender discrimination into the law is an endorsement of discrimination. HB2 also embraces discrimination by removing from state law the cause of action for people who have experienced discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin and sex.  HB2 is simply an endorsement of discrimination in every sense.

Gov. McCrory and state lawmakers are under increasingly intense pressure to repeal HB2. More than 180 leading CEOs and business leaders are urging Gov. McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the deeply discriminatory law that’s bad for business and bad for North Carolina. Mayors and governors across the country are banning travel to the state, musicians are cancelling concerts, and the New York Times editorial board called North Carolina a “pioneer in bigotry.” The NBA has threatened next year’s All-Star Game in Charlotte, NASCAR has spoken about its opposition publicly, and the NCAA has said it won’t schedule events - including the Final Four - in cities that don’t have fully-inclusive non-discrimination laws. Major film studios and corporations, from PayPal to Deutsche Bank, have stopped investments in the state because of the new law. The United Kingdom’s Foreign Office has even warned its LGBT citizens of the risks of traveling to North Carolina.

HRC and Equality NC continue to call for the full repeal of HB2, a blatantly discriminatory law targeting transgender people, and denying municipalities supporting LGBT equality from extending non-discrimination protections to all of their residents.





Stephen Peters
Stephen Peters

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