Thursday’s repeal of North Carolina’s hotly debated HB2, or “bathroom bill,” might not heal the state’s black eye for some time, Duke faculty said.
Fuqua adjunct professor Dorie Clark, a former spokesperson for Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, said she believes the repeal won’t change the state’s reputation or attract major events and businesses back to the state for some time.
“It will take strong action to convince national and global organizations that have cut ties with the state to return,” she wrote in an op-ed in Fortune.
House Bill 2, or HB2, prohibited local governments from passing anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people and required people to use bathrooms for their gender at birth in government buildings.
The new law enacted Thursday repeals HB2, but still restricts cities and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination ordinances.
The NCAA’s stated deadline on where future tournaments will take place appeared to play a significant role in the repeal, experts said. The organization cancelled tournaments in the state in response to HB2.
“I think the NCAA’s view had become a barometer for people judging the economic development impact,” Duke public policy professor Pope “Mac” McCorkle, a former state Democratic consultant, told The New York Times. “It locked in people’s view that this is a mess, and the way we would know the mess had cleared up is the NCAA.”
McCorkle called the deadline “the symbolic hammer that finally worked,” but said the new law looks more like a “plea bargain.”
“The NCAA isn’t liberal or conservative (by nature) so it became kind of the default judge in this case,” McCorkle told the International Business Tribune.
Whether HB2’s replacement is successful will largely depend on how many of the sports events, entertainers and businesses that cancelled or avoided the state return to North Carolina, McCorkle said.
“There could be a split among the outside arbiters about whether this is good enough,” he told The Times. “The deal is only as good as what it achieves in terms of the change in economic development perceptions nationally.”
Law professor Jane Wettach appeared in the same story, saying that schools are among the few institutions that have policed bathroom choices. “Which is what made the law sort of symbolic,” Wettach said.
McCorkle said HB2 hurt North Carolina’s standing when compared to other Southern states, such as South Carolina and Georgia, which have not adopted similar laws.
Those states now appear “more progressive, reasonable, sensible,” he told CNN.
Opponents of HB2 voiced little support for the repeal.
“Many activists working on the ground in North Carolina for HB2’s repeal see the compromise as a disgrace,” Gabriel Rosenberg, a professor of gender, sexuality and feminist studies, told Outsports.
“Gov. Cooper and the state Republican Party are horse-trading with the basic human rights of their constituents. … The compromise takes basic rights from LGBTQ citizens and gives them access to accommodations that never should have been denied in the first place. So it’s a give and take just like when a bully steals your wallet but lets you keep bus fare home.”
For more coverage, visit Duke's What's Next for US? website.