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Charlotte Chamber Details Impact Of HB 2, Pushes For Changes

Michael Tomsic

The Charlotte Chamber reports the number of businesses interested in Mecklenburg County has declined substantially. The reason? North Carolina’s controversial law affecting LGBT people. The Chamber is trying to increase pressure on state lawmakers and city council members to make changes.

Acknowledging this all started with Charlotte expanding its nondiscrimination ordinance, the Chamber asked city council to walk that back. Council members voted no on Monday, and LGBT advocates blasted the Chamber’s request.   

At a press conference Tuesday, Chamber CEO Bob Morgan defended the strategy. 

“Let’s be clear: there are fewer protections for the LGBT community today than there were before the ordinance was passed,” he said.

That’s because state lawmakers went beyond simply nullifying the Charlotte ordinance. They passed House Bill 2 on March 23. It excludes LGBT people from the state’s list of protected classes, eliminates state lawsuits over discrimination, and requires transgender people to use bathrooms in public buildings corresponding to their birth certificates.  

The Charlotte Chamber reports that from the date the law passed through the end of April, business inquiries were down nearly 60 percent, compared to the same period a year ago. Client visits were down even more – almost 70 percent.

“We’ll continue to work with the city and with the legislature in the hopes that we’re able to achieve something that can break an impasse,” Chamber Chairman Ned Curran said.

Legislative leaders have shown little interest publicly in changing the law. And some rural lawmakers in particular have made their disdain for Charlotte clear.

But Curran says behind the scenes, it’s not that simple.   

“We’ve just been engaged in numerous conversations at numerous levels of state government,” he says. “And we have some degree of optimism that there may be some room for some enhancements along the way that would make it better.”

Curran and Morgan say it’s not clear yet what changes lawmakers would go for, but one option is allowing cities to extend LGBT protections with their own local ordinances.

Considering that’s how Charlotte started all this, that would be an about-face for the General Assembly.