Anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina and Mississippi trigger significant backlash

The passing of HB 2 and HB 1523 in North Carolina and Mississippi, respectively, allowing discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community, has faced considerable backlash from activists and the states’ citizens alike.

North Carolina’s HB2, passed on Mar. 23, mandated that transgender people use the restroom corresponding with the gender they were assigned at birth in all public buildings and removed any pre-existing non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community. On Apr. 5, the passing of HB 1523 in Mississippi effectively allows systematic discrimination of the  LGBTQ+ Community, who do not comply with one’s religious beliefs.

The bills faced considerable backlash, with various artists canceling shows in the two states, particularly in North Carolina.

Bruce Springsteen canceled his Apr. 10 Greensboro show, stating, “Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them. It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards”.

Over 250 authors, including John Green, Cassandra Clare, E. Lockhart, James Dashner and Sarah Dessen have signed an open letter condemning the recently passed legislation in North Carolina, stating that, “As artists, we strive to create books that promote acceptance of all people regardless of race, religion or gender identity. We will continue to do so; however, we cannot and will not support a state government that promotes discrimination”.

Composer Stephen Schwartz stated that he would no longer allow his musicals, including “Wicked”, to be performed in North Carolina.

Actress Sharon Stone’s upcoming movie, “The Principal”, was scheduled to be shot in Mississippi in June, but in the wake of the new legislation, Stone decided to choose a new location.

“I will not work in any state that holds or is actively creating laws to legally support discrimination against American citizens, whether due to their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, nor where those laws are passed or approved by the government of said state”.

On Apr. 5, Paypal announced it was canceling plans to build a global operations center in Charlotte, North Carolina, which would have created over 400 jobs, a $3.6 million investment.

In response to North Carolina’s HB 2, over 180 CEOs and other business leaders have signed an open letter to North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory, urging him to repeal the aforementioned law in the upcoming legislative session. The law was also condemned by President Barack Obama, who stated that he disagrees with the legislation “when it comes to respecting the equal rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation”. Obama stated the above in response to a UK travel warning alerting its citizens of LGBTQ+ travelers potentially being “affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi”. Several states, including New York, Vermont and Washington, and several cities such as San Francisco have banned government employees from non-essential travel to Mississippi.

The two states have also seen a considerable decline in tourism. North Carolina, being the sixth most visited state in the country, has an economy that is driven largely by tourism, which is significantly affected by the new bill. Charlotte has seen over 20 cancellations of conventions, resulting in a loss of approximately $2.3 million according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. Several hotels and inns across the state have also reported a dip in business due to the law, even by those who do not identify as LGBTQ+. Around 10.5 percent of Mississippi’s employment comes from travel and tourism employment, meaning that a significant chunk of the population is going to be severely affected by the new law.

North Carolina is also the first state to pass an anti-transgender law, and the school districts that comply with the contents of this bill will be in direct violation of Title IX, which states that no person should be discriminated against based on sex under any education program receiving federal assistance. This violation could potentially cost the school districts of North Carolina an estimated $4.5 billion from the US Department of Education, as well as money from other sources of federal funding, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

In response to Mississippi’s bill, which granted discrimination based on religious grounds, the Jackson City Council unanimously passed a resolution on Apr. 5 denouncing the controversial law, just hours after it was passed.

“We know we are a city of diversity. This resolution is to tell the world that regardless of what our governor, our state agencies, our state Legislature may have passed, the City of Jackson wants you here, regardless of what color you are, regardless of your sexual orientation, regardless of what gender you are, we want you here in Jackson,” Tyrone Hendrix, author of the resolution, stated.

In response to the backlash, several supporters of the legislation have begun to depict the country as a place where religious beliefs are under attack. Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, which has supported the laws, stated, “These people are so paranoid, the LGBT bunch, about this, when nobody is discriminating against them because of who they have sex with. They want to go after these Christians to prove a point and that’s why these laws are being enacted.”

By recognizing that the bill pertains primarily to Christians, Wildmon helps affirm the fact that the bill violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which bans enforcing one particular religion, or even placing one religion above others, which the new legislation in Mississippi does. Other supporters of the bill state that the bill is necessary to protect their religious freedom, a point that was taken down by legal analyst Page Pate, who in response to such supporters, stated, “This law doesn’t give that person any more rights than they currently have under Mississippi law and the United States Constitution,” meaning that it does nothing to further protect one’s religious freedom.

Although most of the country agrees that the new legislation can only hurt the country, many stand in firm defense of the discrimination-tolerating bills. However, both the supporters and those opposed to the laws agree that it is imperative that discrimination end, whether it is against the LGBTQ+ community, or someone of a particular faith.