"Public Facility" law takes up where religious freedom laws left off; likely to also be unpopular with businesses
March 26, 2016
North Carolina acted quickly this week to pass a new law forbidding transgender persons from using their choice of public restrooms.
And when I say quickly, I mean quickly. The law was introduced, debated, passed, and signed by the governor within 12 hours.
That haste was red flag for a law that is already drawing a serious backlash. Just as so-called "religious freedom" laws have caused a furor in states such as Indiana and Louisiana, this law, called The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, has quickly drawn strong opposition from the business community. The New York Times reports that Apple, Dow Chemical, PayPal, Red Hat, and Biogen have all issued statements critical of the new law.
The legislation, let's call it the Public Facilities Law (PFL) for short, is loaded with language that could have all sorts of unintended consequences, along with some intended consequences that have many North Carolina residents crying foul. Political observers note that these kinds of laws can energize a political base--and it comes during an election year, where a Republican Governor is up for reelection, along with a presidential race in a swing state.
As far as the bill's language, according to North Carolina Public Radio: "The legislation was initially designed to create single-sex bathrooms in Charlotte in opposition to an ordinance passed by the Queen City's city council. The Charlotte ordinance allowed individuals to elect which bathroom to use.
"The law passed Wednesday created the single-sex restrooms but also enacted a provision to strip municipalities of their authority to create nondiscrimination measures. The measure also mandates all public schools and college campuses to have bathrooms and locker rooms that are designated for people based on their "biological" gender.
"In addition, the bill also makes clear that local governments cannot require municipal contractors to pay workers above the current minimum wage."
I wrote about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by Indiana almost exactly one year ago for BenefitsPro. That legislation was also quickly rammed through, only to meet with talk of boycotts and businesses moving out of the state.
"The national opposition caused the state to go into damage-control mode. 'It was a firestorm there for about a week,' said Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. 'There was mounting consensus that we should pass follow-up legislation to clarify that there was no way Indiana’s RFRA’s legislation could be used for discrimination.'
"State legislators ended up doing just that, quickly passing a follow-up bill that said the law could not be used to discriminate against individuals."
Hard to say if North Carolina will see a similar walkback with the PFL, but the response of the business community is not surprising. The state is a hotbed for high-tech industry; those companies simply cannot afford to alienate the younger, more-educated, more tolerant workers who are offended by states or brands that are seen as supporting discrimination. In short, these types of laws are simply bad for business.
Our unrelated photo this week is from a recent snowfall at Minnehaha Falls: