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NC’s McCrory struggles to undo damage from anti-LGBT law

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) probably thought it would be a one-day story. He’d sign a new anti-LGBT measure into law, effectively overturning most of the state’s local anti-discrimination ordinances, and though the left would complain, the hullabaloo would soon fade.
It’s not fading. Last week, PayPal canceled its decision to open an office in the state as a result of the Republicans’ discrimination measure. This week, Deutsche Bank scrapped plans to add 250 new jobs in North Carolina; Wake County reported economic development losses; and as Rachel noted on the show last night, a pornography website went so far as to block visitors from computers in North Carolina.
Yesterday, the state’s Republican governor decided it was time to take some action – which did little to undo the damage McCrory and his legislative allies have already done.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday attempted to walk back parts of a controversial law that is seen as discriminatory to LGBT people – yet reinforced a provision in the legislation that restricts transgender people from using the bathroom that aligns with their identification.
McCrory said he’s using an executive order to expand government equal employment policies to include sexual orientation and gender.
He also said that he would ask legislators to reinstate the right to sue for discrimination in North Carolina, which was restricted by HB2, the legislation he signed into law last month that overturned many anti-discriminatory practices enforced by local governments in the state.
The point, obviously, is to mitigate some of the problems the GOP governor has created for his state as a result of HB2. McCrory clearly never anticipated the severity of the election-year backlash, so he’s scrambling to find some kind of fix, other than simply repealing the controversial law that started this mess in the first place.
But as Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern explained, serious problems remain.
It maintains the anti-trans state bathroom policy, which McCrory calls “common sense,” and “affirms the private sector’s right to establish its own restroom and locker room policies.” Yet that was never in doubt: HB2 always allowed businesses to create their own bathroom regulations. So the executive order effectively does nothing to address HB2’s most castigated component.
Similarly, the executive order “affirms the private sector and local governments’ right to establish non-discrimination employment policies for its own employees” – but this, too, fails to address the actual problem created by the bill. HB2 voided citywide nondiscrimination ordinances covering all employees within the city, not just government workers. In fact, the bill explicitly allowed cities to maintain previous policies regarding municipal workers. So this portion of McCrory’s order changes absolutely nothing.
In a statement to MSNBC, Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, responded to yesterday’s developments by saying, “It’s clear that this is a political ploy from the governor that does absolutely nothing to change or roll back many harms to the LGBT community [inflicted by] HB2. Perhaps most concerning about the executive order is that it reinforces the anti-transgender provisions of the law and continues McCrory’s campaign to distort the truth about what it means to protect transgender people from discrimination.”
Or put another way, the governor’s fix doesn’t seem to have fixed much.
Looking ahead, though, McCrory’s announcement yesterday encouraged the Republican-led legislature to reinstate legal rights that HB2 scaled back, and if state lawmakers agree to take action, it will open the door to real, substantive improvements. No word yet on when, or whether, North Carolina’s General Assembly will take up the issue.