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A National Punchline? NC Faces Economic Impact of HB 2

North Carolina lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory are facing criticism, even from the White House, for HB 2. The new law prevents local municipalities from enacting laws to protect the rights of LGBT people. (FrankJania/Flickr)
North Carolina lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory are facing criticism, even from the White House, for HB 2. The new law prevents local municipalities from enacting laws to protect the rights of LGBT people. (FrankJania/Flickr)
March 30, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. - The economic impact of House Bill 2, passed and signed into law last week, is hard to quantify so far, but economists warn the costs could be steep. The law strikes down local protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

San Francisco, Seattle and New York City all announced this week that they won't pay for any nonessential city-employee travel to North Carolina because of HB 2. Allan Freyer, director of the North Carolina Justice Center, said the state even has ended up as a topic of late-night comedy.

"This Legislature routinely turns North Carolina into a punchline. This is not the first time this has happened in the last five years," he said. "Discrimination isn't good for growing a state's economy. It's not good for making sure that there is broadly shared prosperity or an economy that works for everybody."

The National Basketball Association, set to host the All-Star Game in Charlotte next year, now has said it might rethink that. New Belgium Brewery, set to open its East Coast production facility in May in Asheville, said it is "disappointed" in state lawmakers. The state Chamber of Commerce hasn't yet weighed in and didn't respond to calls for comment.

Gov. Pat McCrory has blamed the media for the public outcry against the law.

On Monday, the ACLU and Equality North Carolina filed a lawsuit in response to HB 2, saying it violates equal-protection rights of the Fourteenth Amendment. State Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is running against McCrory in the November election, said he won't defend the state.

In addition to deterring business, Freyer said, the new law alienates part of the population.

"When you discriminate against people, or allow businesses to discriminate against people, you're keeping their dollars, their talents, their ability to spend, on the sidelines, instead of actively engaged in the economy," he said.

About $4 billion in federal education money now is at risk because of HB 2, in the form of Title IX funding. The McCrory administration has insisted that the law does not violate federal requirements to receive that funding.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC