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Prominent Voices and the Weekend's Differing Calls to Action on HB 2

David Gergen delivers the commencement address at Elon University.
Elon University
David Gergen delivers the commencement address at Elon University.
David Gergen delivers the commencement address at Elon University.
Elon University
David Gergen delivers the commencement address at Elon University.

Over the weekend, the economic impact of House Bill 2 was at the heart of two very different calls to action. One voice called for Charlotte’s City Council to blink and repeal the LGBT ordinance passed earlier this year. The other called on North Carolinians to stand and fight House Bill 2.

The two voices are Bob Morgan, president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, and DavidGergen, former advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. He is also co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a political analyst for CNN.

But on Saturday, Gergen swapped his Harvard crimson for Elon University’s maroon to give the school’s commencement speech.

"I’d like to depart from the tradition of showering you with personal advice. Instead, at the risk of offending some of you I want to talk to you about the deepening concerns I and many others have about the future of North Carolina."

Gergen, who grew up in Durham, paid tribute to activists and politicians from both parties which fought hard to reverse the worst of North Carolina’s Jim Crow-era history. Not so long ago, Gergen told the crowd, North Carolina was once a beacon of social justice. But now, he says:

"It's just heartbreaking to see this state, this beloved state become a poster child of backward-looking leadership. Now we’re in the same headlines as Mississippi."

By passing laws on voting, abortion restrictions and limiting LGBT protections, North Carolina’s state legislature has sent what Gergen called a thunderous message rolling out across the country. 

"That North Carolina is no longer a pioneer in advancing people of color. People who are gay. People who are living on the margins," Gergen says. "Instead many here want to go back, far back to a darker time."

And he says that comes at an economic cost, especially for new graduates.

"Companies that had planned to come here have put everything on hold. And think what that means for jobs for you and for others."

Gergen’s message was simple – repeal House Bill 2.

Bob Morgan, president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce has a different message – repeal the Charlotte LGBT ordinance that “lit the match” on this fight and House Bill 2. It would only be a symbolic gesture since state law trumps local law, but Morgan says doing so “will result in our city being engaged in advancing corrective legislation.”

Morgan declined to be interviewed. But on Sunday he penned a column for the Charlotte Observer.

Morgan says he too believes the economic cost of House Bill 2 is real and dangerous.

And while saying the Chamber is against any form of discrimination, he urged the Charlotte City Council to vote tonight to remove its LGBT ordinance from the books as a way to build trust with Raleigh.

And Morgan writes, “The legislature has made clear to anyone who will listen that once Charlotte acts they alone bear the burden of modifying HB2 to restore, and hopefully expand, non-discrimination provisions.”

Morgan offers little but hope – and trust Republican lawmakers will make good on these promises. It’s an argument thin on details but full of dire predictions. He adds, “If the City Council doesn’t take a first step, the crushing economic suffering, much of it hurting low wage hospitality workers, will continue for years while the courts ultimately resolve the issue.”

Later today, the Charlotte City Council may hold a symbolic vote to repeal the LGBT ordinance passed earlier this year. Both sides in this fight are waiting for the other to blink. Tonight one side just may.

UPDATE: The economic impact of HB 2 was put on tonight's city council agenda early this afternoon. The topic was taken off the agenda about four hours later. No reason was given for the change.

Copyright 2016 WFAE

Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.
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