On Monday evening, the Charlotte City Council stood firm against calls for them to reverse course and rescind their city’s LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance, but that doesn’t mean they’re still not receiving pressure.
Just prior to the meeting, the Council announced that it had removed scheduled talks concerning North Carolina’s House Bill 2 from the docket. The move came amid back-and-forth negotiations with state lawmakers in Raleigh, who insist that the council remove the ordinance from its books before they even consider taking action to repeal HB 2. It was that intransigence from Raleigh that prompted the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce to urge the Council to repeal the ordinance, which has essentially been nullified by passage of HB 2.
But Council members objected to repealing the ordinance on principle, as well as the fact that neither Gov. Pat McCrory (R) nor Republican legislative leaders had promised to do anything on their part to amend or repeal HB 2 as part of the so-called “compromise.” When a motion to discuss the situation surrounding HB 2 was brought forward at the Council meeting, members voted 7-4 to defeat that motion. On social media, Mayor Jennifer Roberts urged the Council to stand strong, tweeting: “We cannot compromise on basic human rights. Any repeal of LGBT protections is bad for business, bad for Charlotte’s future.”
But business leaders in the state and particularly within Charlotte and the surrounding Mecklenburg County, are getting nervous and calling for somebody to make the first move in forging a compromise, reports The Charlotte Observer.
The business community’s concerns are being fueled by a new report from the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce that Mecklenburg County has lost nearly $285 million and 1,300 jobs as a result of blowback from the passage of HB 2. The report claims that inquiries about new economic development are down 58 percent since March, when HB 2 was passed during a special session, and that client visits are down 69 percent from last year. The report has been distributed to City Council members and legislative leaders in Raleigh.
“We have said all along that the economic loss has been real, the risk of further loss is great, and this is potentially catastrophic to our economy,” Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan said in a statement.
According to the Chamber, economic boycotts of the state in response to HB 2 have resulted in a loss of $3.7 million in lost sales and property taxes for Mecklenburg County, a loss of $202.7 million in lost wages and benefits in the county, and $7.1 million in lost income and sales tax revenue for North Carolina.
A similar study by the Williams Institute, an LGBT-related policy think tank at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, recently estimated that keeping HB 2 on the books could cost the state nearly $5 billion a year. The bulk of that figure comes from the loss of federal education funds and reduced business investment, reduced travel and tourism, and the costs of litigation to defend the law in court. Currently, there are four separate cases surrounding the legality of HB 2 that are working their way through the courts. The Williams Institute report also found that poorer outcomes in financial stability and health disparities stemming from bullying and discrimination add to HB 2’s price tag, as the state must foot the bill for any Medicaid expenditures or housing programs for people who must rely on the social safety net when they are denied greater economic opportunities.
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