I often tell people about how North Carolina’s Research Triangle is one of the best regions in the country for starting and growing a business. Many of my employees have relocated to Raleigh from other parts of the country for the lower cost of living and great lifestyle.
But of late, North Carolina hasn’t been easy to love. We made headlines last year not for tech innovation but for our trailblazing anti-LGBT law. Support for HB2 cost former Gov. Pat McCrory his job and is costing our state billions of dollars in lost business.
The insistence of Tar Heel state leaders to enact and defend the nation’s first law targeting LGBT people with restricted restroom access has prompted critics to describe the North Carolina as a “pioneer in bigotry.” The state’s beloved NCAA and ACC championships and the 2017 NBA All-Star Game have moved elsewhere – possibly for the foreseeable future – fueled by opposition to this law. In addition, hundreds of high-paying jobs have been canceled by prominent technology firms. North Carolina is now a pioneer in losing billions of dollars’ worth of business.
As proud as I am to live in Raleigh, it turns out that we may have a thing or two to learn from our friends on the West Coast. On March 1, California will enact the nation’s most progressive restroom access law. The Equal Restroom Access Act, authored by California Assembly member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and co-sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, requires that all single-occupant restrooms are universally accessible.
It’s not a complicated or controversial proposal. Your restroom at home is open to everyone. Same goes with restrooms on airplanes and at many hospitals and gas stations. The benefits of this simple change will enable all Californians to use restrooms in a way that is more safe, fair and convenient.
Traditional multi-occupant restrooms can pose serious risks to transgender and gender nonconforming individuals, according to a 2013 survey and report published by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. Some 70 percent of survey respondents had reported being verbally harassed, denied access or physically assaulted in public restrooms.
In addition, parents with young children of the opposite sex and disabled people who rely on caretakers of a different gender would also benefit. When out in public, these groups often have no choice but to break a social norm when the only available restroom is designated to a specific gender.
Altogether, AB 1732 eliminates the fears and frustration many people experience in restrooms every day. The bill requires all single-occupant restrooms in businesses, government buildings and public locations to be labeled “all gender.” It would not require construction of new restrooms; in most cases, the cost to businesses would be minimal, involving simply changing a sign.
With the passage of HB2, North Carolina’s leaders are not just telling people which bathrooms to go into – they’re telling people which markets to avoid.
As California leads the nation in economic growth, its success may not be coincidental; the state has the nation’s most comprehensive laws protecting LGBT rights.
Diversity and inclusion drive new business, fuel innovation, and help companies attract the best employees. In other words, equality is good for the economy.
I’d encourage leaders in the White House, in North Carolina and across the country to follow California’s lead on this important civil rights legislation – otherwise many companies will choose to do their business somewhere else.
Jesse Lipson of Raleigh is an executive at Citrix. He is also the co-founder of HQ, an entrepreneurial co-working space with over 150 companies in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte.
Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article132215099.html#storylink=cpy