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Backlash over North Carolina’s new law extends to Virginia

Posted at 9:56 PM, Mar 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-30 10:42:12-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- North Carolina lawmakers recently passed HB2. The law requires people to use the bathroom of their birth gender. Under the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, in schools and government buildings people must use the bathroom that corresponds with their "biological sex," defined as the one "stated on a person's birth certificate."

That puts some transgender people, who do not identify with the gender on their birth certificate, in an uncomfortable position.

The owner of a Richmond furniture store said she planned to protest North Carolina's new law while attending a massive furniture expo in the state April 15.

"For us it’s not a political issue, it’s a human rights issue," Sarah Paxton, the co-owner of La Diff in Shockoe Slip, said. "It just doesn’t make any sense that you would write legislation that permits you to discriminate."

North Carolina is still considered a major player in the furniture industry, and the High Point Furniture Market takes place there twice a year. Paxton said she and others go to find the trendiest couches, tables and chairs to sell at their respective shops.

“It’s a multi-million-dollar, if not billion-dollar enterprise for them,” Paxton said.

But, Paxton said she seriously considered not going this year after North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory signed HB2 into law.

"The furniture industry and all of our customers accept diversity, we celebrate diversity. I mean our name is La Diff for Pete’s sake. We love things that are different and embrace things that are different,” Paxton said.

The state legislature passed the new law after the city of Charlotte approved an ordinance that allowed transgender people to use restrooms aligned with their gender identity.

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore has defended the law, saying it's about defending "privacy."

Charlotte's anti-discrimination law "would have allowed a man to go into a bathroom, locker or any changing facility, where women are -- even if he was a man. We were concerned. Obviously there is the security risk of a sexual predator, but there is the issue of privacy," Moore said.

Now government leaders across the country are banning non-essential travel to the state by state or city agencies, and the NBA suggested it could pull its 2017 All-Star Game from the state. Businesses like American Airlines and PayPal condemned the law.

Claire Gastanaga, the Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia, said the backlash extended to Virginia.

“A lot of us like to go to the Outer Banks and a lot of people are now reconsidering whether they want to invest money in a place where other members of their family might not be welcome,” Gastanaga said.

While Paxton said she would still attend the furniture market to support its vendors, she said she planned to protest.

“We’re going to go to demonstrate, wearing our equality t-shirts, having lanyards made and buttons,” Paxton said.

CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit asked Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones if he planned to institute any bans on travel to North Carolina for city employees.

Spokesperson Tammy Hawley sent us the following statement:

“This is the first this has been brought to my attention. I will certainly make the Mayor and Administration officials aware of this effort and see if there is any interest or even any need to impose anything similar here. At present, all nonessential travel is already suspended because of budget reasons.”

Hipolit also asked Governor Terry McAuliffe’s spokesperson Brian Coy the same question.

He said he was unable to catch the Governor to ask him the question on Tuesday, but did write “I can tell you that he is committed to making Virginia more open and welcoming to all people no matter whom they love. He would oppose any legislation like that being discussed in North Carolina, and will, in fact, veto here in Virginia legislation that is intended to make it easier to discriminate against LGBT Virginians.”