On March 23, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which aimed to de-legitimize the sweeping human rights ordinance passed earlier in the year in Charlotte. The bill stripped municipalities of the right to expand their human rights ordinances, instead forcing residents of North Carolina to abide by the state’s non-discrimination policy. That policy does not include sexual orientation or gender identity, and considering the makeup of the General Assembly and the governor’s personal opinions on LGBT rights, more or less stalls all progress on that front until the bill is overturned by a high court.
It was presented for a vote with very little discussion, was passed within the span of three hours, and later that night, Governor Pat McCrory signed it into law. Since the act was approved by the governor, national civil rights groups have called for it to be repealed, as have over 120 nationally and internationally-known businesses. PayPal, Lionsgate, and many other companies pulled future projects from North Carolina, and various groups called for boycotts of the state and its tourism industry.
In Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant was given a bill to sign, the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act, which is even more restrictive than North Carolina’s. The bill, which ignored most LGBT civil rights gains from the last two decades, stated that “marriage should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage, and male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.” The bill has far-reaching effects: LGBT people can be refused most basic services and accommodations in Mississippi if the owner has a “sincerely held religious belief” against LGBT people or LGBT rights. On April 5, Governor Bryant signed the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act into law. It is scheduled to go into effect on July 1.
Since we have monitored the situation closely, we asked Florida politicians for their thoughts on these discriminatory bills. Below, you can read their responses.
“For more than two decades, West Palm Beach has been in the forefront, protecting the civil rights and ensuring equality for the LGBT community. Until the discriminatory laws in Mississippi and North Carolina are repealed, West Palm Beach taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people.”
“In Tampa, we celebrate our diversity, it’s a strength, we honor the contributions of everybody. We don’t care which God you worship, or who you love, we are open to everyone and we don’t tolerate discrimination. This is an opportunity to tell corporate America that we are open for business. This is a place that you want to do business. If you want to bring those 500 employees here, they will all be treated fairly, they will not be discriminated against based on who they love or any other reason, so I thought it was important as mayor that we get in that game and we tell that story.”
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman
“There has never been a better time for Florida, and especially St. Petersburg, to send the message that we are welcoming, inclusive and open for business. As mayor of St. Petersburg, I am sending the message to businesses looking to relocate that our community respects and protects the dignity and basic rights of all who live, work and play in our city. In fact, we have consistently received the top ranking in the Municipal Equality Index, a nationwide evaluation of municipal laws and policies.
“In St. Petersburg, our Chamber of Commerce is a proud member of Florida Business for A Competitive Workforce, a coalition made up of Florida’s top employers pushing to ensure those protections exist all across our great state. The Florida Competitive Workforce act enjoys bipartisan support and the vast majority of Floridians believe nondiscrimination should be the law statewide. I supported that bill as a legislator and as mayor have ensured those protections are strong in our city.
“Having witnessed the damage to the reputation and economy of other states, it is surprising to see legislatures self-inflict these injuries. Arizona’s governor vetoed similar legislation in 2014 amidst public outcry and the potential loss of major employers, sporting events and tourism dollars. Indiana held a special session to try and undo the damage of its discriminatory legislation in 2015. A study by Visit Indy found that the state lost more than $60 million in revenue because of its bill that legalized discrimination against our LGBT brothers and sisters.
“It is bad enough that these bills harm LGBT people, but they are written in such a way that undermines basic protections for all. A legal analysis of the hastily crafted law reveals that the law may remove the state right to sue for discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or disability.
“That is not the recipe for recruiting and retaining talent. That is not the message that inspires innovation. St. Petersburg, where the sun shines on all, is open for business and eager to provide a new home where hard work, not prejudice and discrimination, determine how high you can climb.”
“In Orlando, we value every single person and we believe diversity is one of our greatest strengths, not something to be legislated out of existence. We’ve shown our state, and our nation, what it means to embrace other cultures, and ways of life.
In recent days we’ve seen some of the biggest companies in the world voice their unhappiness with Georgia and North Carolina over how those governments are seeking to infringe upon the rights of those who are different.
I would say to those companies, give us a call. Maybe it’s time for a location change. Our diverse, inclusive Orlando community would be delighted to welcome you with open arms!”
“The discriminatory bills passed in North Carolina and Mississippi should offend anyone who has any concerns about equal treatment under the law. Bigotry in the guise of “religious freedom” is still bigotry; hatred under the guise of “personal expression” is still hatred. Neither has a place in our society.”
“Discrimination is wrong, and North Carolina and Mississippi are damaging their states by sanctioning inequality. Business leaders rightfully are speaking out against the discriminatory new laws because such laws harm their employees, harm consumers, and harm their businesses. States that sanction discrimination will face a serious backlash and become stagnant as business and economic development opportunities dwindle. North Carolina and Mississippi will find it more challenging recruit and retain the nation’s best and brightest workers and attract the most talented students from across the country. Discrimination also will diminish he states’ draw as destinations for tourism, new businesses, and economic activity.
“Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay area would welcome relocation of any of these businesses to our area. In the Tampa Bay community, we believe all of our neighbors have the right to be treated equally, with dignity and respect.”
“I condemn the state laws passed by North Carolina and Mississippi, which are hateful and bigoted toward LGBT individuals. These shameful actions have no place in our society and highlight the urgent need for Congress to pass the Equality Act to protect the rights of all Americans because no one should be discriminated against for who they are or who they love.”
Vice Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus
Chair of the LGBT Aging Issues Task Force
“With the stroke of a pen, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory joined a list of elected officials who hold on to and impose regressive and discriminatory beliefs, even as the American people have made strides moving past such bigotry in our history.
“The bills signed into law in Mississippi and North Carolina make homophobia and transphobia legally permissible. This is exactly the opposite direction that we as a country should be headed.
“It’s an unfortunate and shrill reminder that, though marriage equality is the law of the land, the fight for full equality for LGBT Americans is not over. Our job isn’t complete if LGBT individuals are still vulnerable to legal discrimination in the work place, public accommodations, and other core areas of daily life.
“We in Congress must act to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity nation-wide. Let’s pass The Equality Act to expand federal protections for LGBT individuals, and ensure that no state can discriminate against its LGBT residents.” [Editor’s Note: Reps. Deutch, Graham, Castor, Grayson, Murphy, Hastings, Frankel, Wasserman Schultz, and Wilson are all co-sponsors of The Equality Act.]
“We must continue to work towards full equality – not take steps backward toward bigotry. Laws like in Mississippi and North Carolina that allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT individuals or repeal local ordinances that protect them, are simply legal discrimination. They have no place in our society.”
On North Carolina: “This is sadly unsurprising from a party that seems determined to stay stuck in the Stone Age on LGBT equality. From their refusal to accept marriage equality as the law of the land, to their disingenuous ‘free speech’ and ‘religious freedom’ justifications for discrimination, Republicans are hurting Americans who deserve the full and equal protection of the law. Now the same state lawmakers who pretend to love limited government are steamrolling over local officials just because they had the courage to stand up for transgender rights. Our friends in the LGBT community deserve better and so do all the people of North Carolina.”
On Mississippi: “It’s embarrassing, shameful, and truly perplexing that the Republicans still don’t get it. LGBT Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law, just as everyone else. No exceptions. No allowances for discrimination. That we’re even still debating this in 2016 boggles the mind. ‘Right to Discriminate’ measures signed into law by Republican governors are proof that the Republican Party’s leaders are stuck in the dark ages when it comes to equality and that they’ve been on a divisive path toward destruction since long before Donald Trump ran for president. In fact, the Republican National Committee has passed resolutions calling on state legislatures to pass discriminatory ‘bathroom bills’targeted at LGBT youth and calling on Congress to pass a national ‘Right to Discriminate’ law that they cynically call the First Amendment Defense Act. No American should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s not very complicated, and that’s not who we are as Americans. It’s long past time for the Republicans to get the message.”
Stay tuned to this page for statements from additional politicians.