More States Risk Economic Fallout With “Bathroom Bills”

In 2016, North Carolina called a special legislative session for the purpose of enacting a first-in-the-nation “bathroom bill”. The act – the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act – known colloquially as HB 2, contains a provision that limits individuals to using only restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. The bill came about in response to a local ordinance passed by the Charlotte city council, Charlotte Ordinance 7056, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in public accommodations.

The bill immediately generated a massive amount of public and economic backlash for the state, its lawmakers, and its former Governor, Republican Pat McCrory, who lost reelection in November; many attributed McCrory’s loss to his unwavering support of the bill. A number of major businesses have also canceled proposed expansions in the state and major sports leagues have canceled events in the state, including the NBA and NCAA. One estimate by Time Warner Cable News found that the bill has cost the state 1,750 jobs and $77 million in lost investments. Governor McCrory downplayed these lost investments and jobs in an interview, stating, “It’s a $22 billion budget, we have over 22 thousand businesses in North Carolina, 10 million people in North Carolina. It’s a pretty massive budget. Our revenue projections are pretty consistent.”

As a result of the damage the law has done to the state’s reputation and economy, state lawmakers called another special session in late 2016 for the explicit purpose of repealing the law, but were unable to reach an agreement to do so. The law remains in effect.

Despite the political, social and economic fallout that North Carolina experienced from enacting the controversial bathroom bill in 2016, lawmakers in at least eight additional states will be trying to push through similar legislation this session, according to The Guardian. To date, legislators have already prefiled or introduced bills similar to North Carolina’s HB 2 in Alabama, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington. The bills stand a far greater chance of passing in the red states that they’ve been introduced in such as Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas. Texas Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has identified the bill as a priority in the upcoming session, stating, “You can mark today as the day that Texas is drawing a line in the sand and saying ‘no’. The privacy and safety of Texans is our first priority, not political correctness.”

In Virginia, activists opposing the bill are already seeing support as Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vowed to veto the bill if it comes across his desk. “Just as HB 2 has hurt North Carolina, this proposal would harm our on-going efforts to bring jobs to Virginia,” said Governor McAuliffe in a statement on the bill. As one of the most controversial issues throughout the country this year, supporters and opponents are undoubtedly digging in for a grueling battle across a number of states, unconcerned about potential economic harm.