The controversial bill, HB2, was struck down by new North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper last week. For those unfamiliar with HB2, it is more commonly known as North Carolina’s “bathroom bill.” It was the bill signed into law by the former governor that struck down protections for transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. It also specifically removed “sexual orientation” from discrimination protections in the workplace.
Immediately after HB2 passed, many in the country were outraged. The Foghorn stands by this outrage and we were astonished at this step back in civil rights. Residents of North Carolina protested for months on end. Even though other states’ senators couldn’t intervene in North Carolina’s legislature, their phone lines rang constantly with pushback to HB2. Yet it was not these citizens’ protests that largely helped strike down HB2… at least not directly.
It was the role of private businesses — large banking corporations, college sports associations, leaders in the tech industry — that many are saying helped bring down HB2. When talking about politics, “big corporations” leave a dirty taste in your mouth. The Foghorn would like to applaud an instance of corporations doing good in influencing politics. By reflecting popular opinion, corporations changed a law many felt was morally wrong.
How far did this pushback go? The NBA moved February’s All-Star weekend from Charlotte to New Orleans. North Carolina lost huge potential revenues that spillover even into small businesses.The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), an organization with a strong hold in North Carolina, was a leading voice against HB2. In a state that holds college basketball sacred with schools like Duke and University of North Carolina, the NCAA has a lot of power. When the NCAA threatened to bar North Carolina from hosting the championships in their state from 2018-2022, it was taken very seriously. The decision wasn’t just millions of dollars on the table; it was the culture of college basketball.
That said, dollars did play a huge role in the eventual withdrawal of HB2. Businesses that bring a lot of money to North Carolina cancelled expansive development plans there. Paypal had plans to open new offices in Charlotte, but rescinded them after HB2 was passed. The Charlotte Chamber, Charlotte’s business networking organization, said this decision prevented what could have been an upwards of $285.5 million added to the state’s economy.
The case of corporations condemning North Carolina’s HB2 law is an instance of democracy working well. Corporations have freedom of speech granted by our liberal democracy. Because of this same liberal democracy, corporations face little governmental involvement and are encouraged to profit. In a beautiful intertwining of civil liberties and the free market, HB2 was struck down because corporations saw it was unpopular, knew taking a stand against it would receive a positive reaction from their customers, and thus worked against HB2.
The Foghorn was against HB2 when it first passed and is relieved to see its failure now. Even more, the Foghorn applauds businesses for using their power to reflect a popular opinion about social issues. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” Martin Luther King Jr. said. In the case of HB2 repeal, popular opinion bended towards justice for LGBT Americans.
Businesses are dependent on popular support for their products, not just locally, but on a national and global scale. Through their potential to impact economics, businesses have the power to effect change much sooner and more effectively. When they do, legislation that hurts their customer base, and the general public, can be repealed.