Raleigh, N.C. — A group of 68 businesses that includes consumer giants like Apple have signed onto an amicus brief supporting the federal government's efforts to have House Bill 2 declared unconstitutional.
"By compelling transgender persons in North Carolina to deny their gender identity when using public facilities, H.B. 2 stigmatizes them and conveys a clear message—with the full force of State law—that they are second-class citizens whose gender identity is undeserving of solicitude or respect," reads the brief.
Other businesses that have signed on to the brief include Apple, General Electric, IBM, IKEA, Levi Strauss & Co., Marriott, Nike, PayPal, Red Hat and United Airlines.
House Bill 2 is the controversial measure dealing with LGBT rights passed in March. Among its provisions is a requirement that transgender individuals use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the sex indicated on their birth certificates when in publicly owned buildings such as government offices, public schools and University of North Carolina campuses.
The law has drawn criticism from big businesses and entertainers, but proponents say it is necessary to protect women and children.
Gov. Pat McCrory's administration criticized the businesses' position.
"North Carolina law protects the long-held expectations of privacy for women and children in government facilities, schools and highway rest stops while providing accommodations for special circumstances," McCrory's general counsel, Bob Stephens, said in a statement. "It’s disappointing that some companies are joining the Obama Administration’s position, which jeopardizes those long-held expectations of privacy. Those corporations that have joined the left-wing HRC are ignoring the fact that they operate in 22 other states, which like North Carolina, are challenging the federal government’s overreach."
HRC refers to Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT advocacy group.
House Bill 2 was passed in reaction to a Charlotte ordinance that would have required businesses to allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts are among the public officials who have been vocal in their opposition to the law.
On Friday, Senate leaders who have stood behind the bill pointed to an incident in Charlotte in which a man found in a woman's restroom was engaged in inappropriate activity.
"Roy Cooper, Jennifer Roberts and anyone else actively fighting the common-sense bathroom safety bill need to explain why they think what this man put this woman through in a Charlotte bathroom this week should be legal," Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement.
Rep. Chris Sgro, D-Guilford, called Berger's statement disingenuous fear-mongering.
"As an attorney and a leader in the North Carolina General Assembly, I am sure he already understands that it is illegal to be a peeping tom or a sexual predator in a public restroom or anywhere else," Sgro, who also heads LGBT advocacy group Equality NC, said in a statement. "Phil Berger's deceit does nothing to distract from the real problem facing North Carolina: HB2, the worst anti-LGBT law in the nation."
In addition to local opposition, the federal government has sued to overturn parts of the law, one of many legal actions over the legislation. The brief filed by the corporations in question was filed in that federal action and goes on to argue that the state law cuts against policies adopted by the companies that encourage a diverse workforce.
"In all of these respects, diversity and inclusion are integral aspects of amici’s operations and critical to amici’s ability to compete in an increasingly varied and global marketplace," the brief reads. "Yet, H.B. 2 threatens to undermine amici’s efforts to attract and retain diverse employees and customers by stigmatizing and demeaning transgender individuals and legitimizing discrimination on the basis of gender identity."