Dan Bishop wrote a law that cost NC billions. Now he wants to be state Attorney General.

Dan Bishop wrote a law that cost NC billions. Now he wants to be state Attorney General.

FILE - Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Sept. 20, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Bishop is unopposed in the March 5 Republican primary for North Carolina attorney general. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)

By Dylan Rhoney

June 27, 2024

House Bill 2 created a climate of fear for LGBTQ North Carolinians and resulted in the state missing out on billions of dollars after companies canceled job announcements and concerts and sporting events were moved to other states. Now its architect wants to be the state’s attorney general.

Eight years ago, a little-known state representative named Dan Bishop introduced legislation that made North Carolina a source of national attention—and not in a good way. 

Bishop, a Republican, sponsored House Bill 2, a bill quickly signed into law in 2016 by then-Governor Pat McCrory that overrode a Charlotte ordinance preventing businesses in the city from discriminating against LGBTQ citizens and requiring them to allow people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity. House Bill 2 was technically a nondiscrimination ordinance—one that excluded LGBTQ North Carolinians. 

The backlash to HB 2 was swift and widespread, and the array of harmful consequences it had on the state led to the repeal of the bathroom use portion of the law just one year later. The rest of the law was later repealed after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper took office. 

But Bishop’s affiliation with HB 2 did nothing to limit his career. Bishop won a special election to the US House of Representatives in 2019, and is now running to be North Carolina’s top law enforcement official as state attorney general. Nor did the backlash to HB 2 make Bishop rethink his own stances towards LGBTQ people, whom he once compared to the Taliban, the fundamentalist militant group that currently controls Afghanistan. The cruel irony of Bishop’s remarks is that the Taliban have brutally persecuted LGBTQ people and made same-sex relations punishable by death. 

As he runs for attorney general, Cardinal & Pine dove into Bishop’s anti-LGBTQ record and the consequences it’s had for North Carolina.  

Economic impact of HB 2

HB 2 is estimated to have cost North Carolina between $3.8 and $5 billion in total economic investments. Just weeks after the bill became law, PayPal announced that it was canceling a planned operations center that would have employed around 400 people with a payroll of over $20 million per year. PayPal’s decision cost the state’s economy nearly $2.7 billion

Deutsche Bank, a German financial services organization, also opted not to bring 250 jobs to the Raleigh area and shoe giant Adidas changed plans to build a plant near High Point that would have hired around 160 people. The company instead built a plant near Atlanta.

Multiple artists and bands also canceled planned concerts in the state, including Maroon 5, Bruce Springsteen, and Beatles legend Ringo Starr. Each canceled performance meant fewer hotel bookings and fewer people going to restaurants, bars, and businesses. Starr’s cancellation cost the Cary venue he was scheduled to perform at $33,000.

The NBA also moved its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte in response to the law, saying in a statement that “…we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2.”

Then-state Senator Jeff Jackson, Bishop’s Democratic opponent in this year’s attorney general’s race, told ESPN at the time that the loss of the All-Star game would have a huge impact on the city of Charlotte, calling it a “$100 million hit to the city of Charlotte and the state.”

“A lot of that money would go to schools, health care and roads,” Jackson said at the time.

Despite the cancellations of jobs, large sporting events, and concerts, Bishop claimed in 2019 that there was no economic fallout from HB 2.

“The nonpartisan staff at the General Assembly, the economists, say no economic effect could be detected, but that’s something that the media doesn’t care to pick up,” he said.

A 2019 analysis from the North Carolina’s Fiscal Research Division that was provided to Bishop did not find evidence for a negative or positive impact in the trajectory of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) during the time HB 2 was in effect. However, because the bathroom use portion of the law was only full in effect for a short period of time, the memo’s author, Barry Boardman wrote, “These results are not surprising given that the legislation was only in effect for twelve months, which is too short a timeframe to observe and validate any economic variances with proven analytical methods and the available data.”

Had HB 2 remained on the books for longer, however, other reports suggest the impact could have been far greater. 

A climate of fear for LGBTQ people

HB 2 further stigmatized an already marginalized group. Suicide and depression rates among LGBTQ youth are far higher than their non-LGBTQ peers, according to research from The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth. 

A 2023 study from the group found that 41% of LGBTQ youth—1.8 million people—considered suicide that year. 

The Campaign for Southern Equality’s Ivy Hill called bills that target transgender people a “governmental legal stamp of approval on discrimination and harassment and violence.”

From 2013-2021, nine transgender people were murdered in North Carolina. Axios Charlotte reports that the six confirmed murders of transgender people from 2016 to 2021 was second only to Chicago, where at least seven trans people were murdered during that time period. 

Andy Craighill-Middleton, an openly transgender man who is running for Congress this year in the state’s 6th Congressional District, explained how the debate around HB 2 and bathrooms further marginalized the transgender community.

“Bathrooms are a very touchy subject with the trans community anyway, because there is a climate of fear about being sought out and confronted,” he said.

The passage of HB 2 even made Craighill-Middleton wonder if he should stay in the state.

“I had just moved back to North Carolina from New York, just outside New York City, and my first thought was, ‘oh God, I have to move again,’” he recalled. For other trans people, it may have made them reevaluate whether it was even worth going out in public at all, Craighill-Middleton said, explaining the thought process that some trans people may have gone through as a consequence of the bill: “Oh gosh, I can go out, but I can’t drink anything. I can’t bring water, I can’t drink a soda, because I might not be able to use the bathroom.”

Sarah Wilson, an Assistant Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University said last year that the cultural stigma HB 2 created was truly dangerous for transgender people.

“In North Carolina after HB2 … we saw gender identity-motivated hate crimes actually increased in the state. So there can be these larger cultural effects of the legislation that can adversely affect LBTBQ+ individuals by normalizing stigma. Where there is stigma, oftentimes there is increased violence,” she said.

Concerns for the LGBTQ community under Bishop

Bishop’s record of hostility towards LGBTQ people goes beyond HB 2 and his comments comparing them to the Taliban. As a member of the Mecklenburg County Commission in 2012, Bishop opposed a non-discrimination proposal for LGBTQ people, saying it was “either a political stunt or a serious dagger at the heart of marriage.”

Bishop also supported Amendment One, a ballot measure during the 2012 primary that defined marriage as legally between one man and one woman.

Craighill-Middleton says that he has serious concerns about the prospect of Bishop being elected as state attorney general.

“Say he gets elected and we start seeing this kind of retaliatory or fear-based enforcement of the law, [say he] pushes for things like HB2 in the future—it doesn’t just tell the trans and the queer community ‘you don’t belong.’ How many other communities are watching and going, ‘are we next?’”

In an interview this month, Jackson also warned that Bishop might go after LGBTQ North Carolinians, like he has in the past. 

“He is going to treat the LGBTQ community like a political pinata. That’s how he sees them. That is how he has always treated them. Since his time serving on the county commission, when he was a strong opponent of same sex marriage, all the way to right now,” Jackson said.

If Bishop wins, he’d come to office at a time when the rest of the right is also becoming increasingly hostile to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights. The North Carolina legislature in recent years has passed multiple bills targeting transgender people, including bills in the summer of 2023 that ban them from participating in youth sports that match their gender identity and ban gender-affirming healthcare for minors.

“There is a growing movement of trans folks and queer folks talking about how they need to leave North Carolina,” Craighill-Middleton said. “All of us have at least thought ‘oh gosh, what happens when xyz passes?’ We’ve all got our own personal boundary for ‘if this happens, we’ve gotta’ get out of here for safety.’”

Author

  • Dylan Rhoney

    Dylan Rhoney is an App State grad from Morganton who is passionate about travel, politics, history, and all things North Carolina. He lives in Raleigh.

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