It was bad enough when Pay Pal and other big companies revoked plans to invest in and bring high-paying jobs to North Carolina because of House Bill 2, which limited protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people and forbade cities from passing anti-discrimination laws of their own. HB2 also established a requirement that everyone use bathrooms and locker rooms conforming to the gender on their birth certificates, a law aimed at transgender people.
The national reaction against the law was overwhelming. Bruce Springsteen refused to play a concert in a state where HB2 rules. Other individuals, organizations and corporations followed suit. Gov. Pat McCrory and his Republican colleagues in the legislature complained that North Carolina was being singled out while other states with similar laws were not boycotted. McCrory's complaint had some validity, but North Carolina's HB2 went further than other states' rules, and GOP leaders in the state dug in their heels rather than seeking a compromise.
Now the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference have weighed in on the HB2 debate by pulling all NCAA and ACC championship events from the state. This is more than legal maneuvering or political correctness. This is basketball and football. This is a slap in the face of the state that birthed and reared the Atlantic Coast Conference. The conference's headquarters is in Greensboro, which is also the traditional site of many of its premier events. The cost to the state will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The NCAA contracts with venues for "March Madness" games years in advance. The loss of this year's games will affect tournament sites for years to come. More millions of dollars will go to other states.
McCrory's strong streak of self-righteousness has kept him from admitting that the hastily passed law he supported and signed might be wrong. He and other Republican leaders have "doubled down" on their insistence that HB2 is a privacy protection law.
As an aging male who remembers what it was like to be a15-year-old boy and as a father of two daughters, I have a certain empathy for parents who recoil at the thought of boys sharing the shower room with their middle-school or high school daughters after phys ed class. A narrowly structured law could address this concern without the ban on anti-discrimination laws and other portions of HB2. Likewise, the bathroom issue can be resolved by admitting that transgender people — a minuscule subset of the population — have been using the bathrooms of their choice for years.
Some Republicans now appear willing to reconsider HB2, but the damage to North Carolina's economy and pride has been done. Pay Pal isn't going to reverse course. Springsteen won't give a "make-up" concert. The NCAA is accepting invitations from other states to play post-season events there. North Carolina, the home of the ACC, will likely be on the outside looking in for years to come. You might even have to worry about the ACC headquarters. If ACC teams can't play tournaments in North Carolina, can the conference keep its headquarters in Greensboro without being accused of hypocrisy?
Even people who support HB2's provisions have to admit that the law has hurt the state in economic, cultural and prestige measures. The Republican General Assembly will have to undo this error as soon as possible, like it or not.