It’s been over three weeks since the election, but North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory still hasn’t conceded his loss in the governor’s race to challenger Roy Cooper. Cooper’s lead recently surpassed 10,000 votes, the threshold at which McCrory can no longer request a publicly-funded statewide recount. Alleging voter fraud, McCrory has been granted a recount of 94,000 votes in one county. But at this point, McCrory’s hold on the governorship that he likely lost by sanctioning discrimination in his state just seems desperate.
Many have called the governor’s race a referendum on the infamous HB 2, a bill spearheaded by McCrory. Many refer to HB 2 as the “bathroom bill,” because it bans transgender students and public employees from using the restroom consistent with their gender identity. But HB 2 is not just about bathrooms. Limiting where transgender people can use the bathroom limits where they can work, go to school, or participate in public life. HB 2 also eliminates municipal non-discrimination protections for all LGBTQ people, sanctioning discrimination against transgender people, lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals.
Unlike many other anti-LGBTQ bills we track at Protect Thy Neighbor, HB 2’s discriminatory provisions are not explicitly built around the pretense of protecting religious belief. However, HB 2 is part of the wave of anti-LGBTQ bills, many of them so-called “religious liberty” bills, that have swept the nation since the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision in 2015. In other states, proponents of anti-transgender bills like HB 2 are beginning to use religion as their excuse to discriminate in this arena as well.
By signing HB 2, McCrory invited widespread backlash. Musicians, authors, banks, tech giants, the NCAA, the NBA, movie studios, foreign governments, and sixty-eight of the state’s largest companies all denounced the law. Many planned to boycott the state, resulting in an estimated loss of $5 billion in economic activity each year.
The outrage about HB 2 likely has cost McCrory this election that otherwise should have been an easy win. In the 2012 election, McCrory won in a blowout with a 500,000 vote lead and 170,000 more votes than Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But this time around, although North Carolina went handily to Donald Trump, Republican voters failed to carry McCrory to victory: he received 63,000 less votes than the president-elect. In exit polls, nearly 66 percent of North Carolina voters said they opposed the bill. 57 percent of voters said HB 2 was the top reason not to vote for the Governor, and 58 percent said they believed the law was hurting the state’s economy.
Fortunately, in other states, lawmakers are taking North Carolina’s example to heart. After vetoing a bill earlier this year that would have sanctioned discrimination against the LGBTQ community in his state, Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal said that he “would not want Georgia to go through that kind of scenario” faced by North Carolina. And in Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick noted that it was unlikely that the Speaker of the House or the Governor “have any appetite” for a similar bill.
It’s time for McCrory to join these lawmakers in realizing that discrimination doesn’t pay off, and it doesn’t win elections. Even in the unlikely chance that McCrory wins after a recount, it’s clear that he’s already lost many things—including his state’s reputation, business investment, and many of his previous voters and supporters.
Follow Samantha Sokol online at @samsokol19