Raleigh, N.C. — The chorus of cries for a repeal of House Bill 2 is growing louder as the Atlantic Coast Conference on Wednesday followed the NCAA's lead and pulled its tournaments from North Carolina because of the state's insistence on maintaining a law that the college athletic organizations find discriminatory.
"This is not just about sports. This is about communities in North Carolina suffering real economic blows," Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic candidate for governor, said in a videotaped statement. "The solution is simple: Repeal House Bill 2, and do it now."
The ACC's decision means the state will lose 10 neutral site championships, including the Dr. Pepper ACC Football Championship game in Charlotte, which alone brought in more than $32 million last year, according to Charlotte officials. Cary will lose ACC women's soccer and and men's and women's tennis tournaments, and the ACC baseball tournament will be moved from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
House Bill 2 precludes discrimination protections for gay and transgender people and requires transgender individuals to use bathrooms in schools and other public buildings that correspond to their birth gender.
As he did Tuesday in response to the NCAA's move, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory called on the ACC to wait for federal courts to resolve the issue over transgender rights.
"I strongly encourage all public and private institutions to both respect and allow our nation’s judicial system to proceed without economic threats or political retaliation toward the 22 states that are currently challenging government overreach," McCrory said in a statement.
"At some point, Pat McCrory has to understand that this is not a grand conspiracy against him. It's a mistake that he made when he alone signed House Bill 2," said Rep. Chris Sgro, D-Guilford, who also is the director of LGBT advocacy group Equality North Carolina.
"Everybody has been saying for months now this bill is discriminatory – it's bad for business, it means we can't very easily come to North Carolina with our events," Sgro said. "This is information that he has, and he is continuing to create this problem instead of trying to find any sort of solution."
It appears, however, that Republican legislative leaders, who have framed the law in terms of protecting women and girls in public bathrooms, have no immediate plans to back away from House Bill 2.
"The truth remains that this law was never about and does not promote discrimination," House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement. "We will continue to advocate that North Carolina is a great place to live, do business, hold events and to visit."
House and Senate Democrats called Tuesday for a special legislative session to repeal the law, and Sen. Tamara Barringer, R-Wake, joined the effort. But most in the majority party remain silent on the issue.
Dave Miranda, a spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party, said voters themselves will have a chance to repeal the law in November by changing the leadership in the General Assembly and the Executive Mansion.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said she doesn't think the loss of sporting events will influence the upcoming election.
"I don't think it's going to have an effect. In fact, I think it's going to make people reconsider whether it's that important to go to a basketball game or a soccer match or a football game," Fitzgerald said, adding that lawmakers who backed House Bill 2 should stand firm and keep the law in place.
"The ACC and the NCAA are trying to bully the state of North Carolina into us coming to a radical sexual agenda that they're pushing off on the state," she said. "So, the real question is how much is it worth to compromise the safety and the privacy of even just one little girl."
Critics of the law point out there is no evidence that anti-discrimination ordinances in more than 100 U.S. cities and states have endangered the safety of women or children.