NCAA bathroom law protest might not do enough


On Monday, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced that it will be pulling seven championship events scheduled to occur during the 2016-2017 academic year from the state of North Carolina. The March Madness games in Greensboro were included, which are the biggest relocations, economically speaking.

The decision was based on North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, which maintains state laws concerning concerning wages, employment and public accommodations over those of local municipalities, preventing the passage of laws that protect LGBT individuals from discrimination in public places, except at the state level. North Carolina does have a statewide antidiscrimination law, but there are no provisions specific to LGBT individuals.

Since being written into law in March 2016, HB2 has been protested by a number of businesses. PayPal, Dow Chemical and Google have been among them. On July 21, the National Basketball Association announced it would move its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte to a different city, which will cost the city an estimated $100 million. Artists like Bruce Springsteen and Demi Lovato have decided to cancel their performances in protest as well.

The combined effect of these protests by expansive businesses and prominent figures should work toward reversing the North Carolina law. With the ability to withdraw economic support from the state, the businesses and performers can damage North Carolina’s economy, which could result in legislators repealing the law. If the legislators do not repeal the law as a result of the protests alone, their constituents could vote them out of office to bring business ventures and performers back to the state.

However, the democratic process in North Carolina is not so simple. The state has 13 federal congressional districts, 10 of which are occupied by Republican members of the House of Representatives. In 2012, Barack Obama carried 48.35 percent of the popular vote, losing the state to Mitt Romney by just over 2 percent. With these numbers, one might expect Democrats to hold nearly half of the House seats in North Carolina, but they hold less than a fourth. At the state level, Democrats hold 45 of the 120 seats in the North Carolina House of Representatives, again far less than half of the seats. Why don’t Democrats hold more seats in the legislature?

Although there are many factors at play, such as split-ticket voting and increased voter turnout during presidential election years, one explanation involves North Carolina’s districts. The state legislature controls the creation of districts at the state and federal level. In 2014, the federal districts yielded ten Republicans but looked ridiculous. District 12 looks like an island chain passing through District 7. Districts 1 and 3 look like two intertwined hands. The state-level districts are no better.

A Federal Court ruling in July 2016 ordered the state to redraw 28 of its state-level legislative districts because they were racially gerrymandered, or in other words, the districts were manipulated in order to electorally favor the Republican Party. The state legislature will draw new borders, so the lines will most likely still support Republican candidates, and the changes to the districts will come into effect only after the 2016 election.

Because Republicans are less likely to support laws protecting LGBT rights than Democrats, a legislature that is the equivalent of a weighted-die will be much less likely to respond to voters. Even if voters support candidates that would repeal HB2, it might not be enough.

By protesting HB2, businesses and celebrities promote the equality of LGBT individuals across the world. Their actions are inspirational and significant; the economic effects may cripple the state enough to force the legislature to repeal the law from the financial side of the issue. However, decrying the law does not get to the root of North Carolina’s problems. A state which voted for Obama in 2008 and barely went to Romney in 2012—a “purple” state— should not overwhelmingly lean one way or another because of the way districts represent the population. Perhaps a better way to protest the denial of civil rights would be to put money into groups fighting for equal representation in North Carolina. Facing a legislature that makes the rules of the game, such groups will need all the backing they can get.

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