Gus Kenworthy
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Where's the Leadership on North Carolina?

Where's the Leadership on North Carolina

The tail is wagging the dog. At least that is what is happening with the homophobic and transphobic legislation recently adopted in Mississippi and North Carolina.

But, from our national organizations like Human Rights Campaign and National LGBTQ Task Force, there’s a serious lack of direction on how we as the LGBT community can do something to assist in this war on our civil rights.

They do issue press releases, and they do assemble a list of companies demanding that the states change their laws, but that's talk. Read the letter that HRC had 80 corporations and business leaders sign; it had no bite.

Action has fallen to groups like Lambda Legal who will aptly fight HB 2 in the courts, but we have no idea how long that will take. Several corporations, conventions and entertainers, starting with Bruce Springsteen, canceled their shows, events or expansion of their business in North Carolina to protest, but much of this is being done by performers and business leaders with a strong sense of fairness and civil rights. As for an organized effort? No national leadership.

Why? Because leadership means offending someone and having a strategy. And if part of your work is in the retail business, selling buttons, T-shirts, hats and dinner tickets, you really don’t want to make waves. It seems HRC and The Task Force expect this issue to take care of itself.

While many legal scholars believe these laws to be unconstitutional and while Lambda and ACLU will win eventually in court, that might take time, and as it does, more states will pass similar laws. So why not take control of the dog's tail?

According to Charlotte Regional Visitor Authority, at least 20 conventions and events have backed out of Charlotte because of concerns over North Carolina’s controversial new LGBT law, and another 36 are hesitant about doing business in the state. The loss of all 56 events could cost the city more than $86 million in visitor spending, as well as 127,288 hotel rooms. 

So a strategy is already showing itself. A boycott. Thanks to Springsteen and companies like PayPal, who jumped on early in this struggle, North Carolina has had its eyes opened — to the point that several legislators have now publicly stated they are having second thoughts. You might now be wondering about Mississippi, but a boycott strategy only works when you target one company or place. In this case, boycotting North Carolina holds more promise than Mississippi.

Yes, boycotts hurt people, but they are effective. Remember Anita Bryant, orange juice, and that boycott that galvanized our community politically for the first time? And if you look at North Carolina, it’s ripe for such an action. A boycott would include stating that you couldn’t even change planes in North Carolina. That alone creates a major problem for the state, which needs the Charlotte hub in particular for its financial and aviation industries.

According to the Charlotte Business Journal, "About $12.5 billion of the state’s economic impact is centered on Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the state’s largest airport.” The study estimates that airport alone employs 17,890 directly and supports a total of 60,320 jobs.

All those banks, entertainers and companies that signed onto the HRC letter talked the talk with that initiative; now, will you walk the walk? No more meetings or conventions in North Carolina, no improvements to your current business, no adding jobs, no building new plants. No concerts or shows. No changing planes in Charlotte.

It’s the best financial target since orange juice. But hey, I’m not HRC or The Task Force, I’m just a writer.
 
MARK SEGAL is an award-winning commentator in LGBT media. His memoir, And Then I Danced, is available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or your favorite book seller.

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