PayPal announced April 5 that it is withdrawing plans to open a global operations center in Charlotte, saying North Carolina’s new law “invalidates protections” of LGBT rights. The online payment company’s decision, announced by CEO Dan Schulman in a statement on their website, allegedly costs the city hundreds of jobs.
State lawmakers passed HB 2 in a special session March 23 to overturn a controversial sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council before it took effect April 1. The SOGI policy would have allowed transgender individuals to access the bathrooms, locker rooms or other public accommodations according to their gender of choice.
HB 2 requires state agencies to designate single-sex bathrooms and changing facilities for use according to biological sex as indicated by birth certificate.
The bill cites “improved intrastate commerce” and benefits for new and existing businesses as reasons for sustaining a statewide non-discrimination policy. The law’s supporters said Charlotte’s ordinance would also endanger women and children by potentially allowing sexual predators to exploit the policy.
PayPal is joined by dozens of businesses that have also expressed opposition to the legislation, stoking the ongoing debate.
“The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture,” said Schulman.
Conservative advocates deny the allegation that HB 2 enables discrimination, and claim PayPal’s actions are hypocritical, since the company operates in countries with governments that oppress LGBT people.
“PayPal currently does business in 19 countries where homosexuality is illegal and six countries where they can be executed,” Tami Fitzgerald, director of the N.C. Values Coalition, said in a press release. “The hypocrisy is just too great!”
Mark Harris, congressional candidate and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, said, “PayPal is perfectly happy opening operations in Cuba despite well-documented human rights violations, while they already operate in China and Saudi Arabia. This is the height of hypocrisy and shows more political expediency than common sense.”
Fitzgerald added, “PayPal only agreed to come to Charlotte after holding out for millions in corporate incentives ($3.7 million to be exact, plus $480,000 in community college incentives). Under HB 2, PayPal could have chosen to fill all 400 jobs with employees of their choice and provide bathroom and non-discrimination policies designed to their liking. But instead, they forfeited the opportunity to build an operations center in one of the top economically thriving states just for political posturing and ‘political correctness.’”
More than 40 large corporations that do business in the state – such as Google, Bank of America and Apple – criticized the new law in online comments. In a tweet March 30, American Airlines called for a repeal of HB 2 “in support of our LGBT employees & customers.”
Fitzgerald said, “I would like to be a fly on the wall in American Airlines’ shareholder meetings as they try to justify why they have chosen to side with convicted sex offenders and not the common sense consumers who buy their airline tickets.”
Red Hat Inc., a tech firm in downtown Raleigh, said on the company blog, “We cannot see any economic benefit from divisive legislation.”
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, National Basketball Association and cable network ESPN also expressed concern about the effects of the law on their respective sporting events, according to Raleigh’s News & Observer.
Prior to the passing of Charlotte’s controversial LGBT ordinance, Forbes magazine listed North Carolina as the second best state for business in 2015, according to their website.