North Carolina 'Religious Freedom' Law Makes Some Reconsider Moving There
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're going to now focus in on a new controversial law in North Carolina that is rolling back rights for LGBT people. The law gets rid of anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity. And the law gets very personal, requiring people to use restrooms that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificates. There's been a spate of national criticism about this from the CEOs of Apple and IBM, the NBA. And the mayors of New York, San Francisco and Seattle have all barred city employees from nonessential business travel to the state of North Carolina. The governor of that state, Pat McCrory, posted a video this past week responding to the uproar.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PAT MCRORY: To the people and businesses of North Carolina, we are a state of inclusiveness, openness and diversity. And I'm very, very proud of that.
MARTIN: We're going to hear now from a businessman in North Carolina about the impact of this law both financially and personally. His name is Mitchell Gold. He co-founded the furniture company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams with his partner Bob Williams. Mitchell Gold joins us now. Welcome to the program.
MITCHELL GOLD: Thank you.
MARTIN: I guess I'll just start off by asking for your reaction to this law when you heard this was coming down the pike.
GOLD: I was, you know, just shocked by it and think it's despicable and appalling. It's really hard for me to understand why they would want to make sure that local communities don't have nondiscrimination clauses that make each community richer and more diverse. And it's really appalling that for trans people they would want to make a big issue out of where that person decides to go to the bathroom, where they feel most comfortable doing something that's so private and that represents their dignity.
MARTIN: How do you imagine that it might affect your business?
GOLD: Well, I think what is disturbing is when we are trying to recruit people to our home office in western North Carolina, I do sometimes get people say to me, well, I don't know if I want to move to North Carolina. I don't know if I want to move to a rural area. And it's an ongoing battle. And this makes it more difficult, not less difficult, to hire the very best talent.
MARTIN: How do you imagine this law affecting your life personally?
GOLD: It's not about me. I'm more concerned about a 15- or 16-year-old kid. When I was 15, 16 years old, I was scared. I was tortured. I cried myself to sleep every night because I thought I was broken. I thought God didn't love me. And that's - that's who I'm worried about. I want us to all take a deep breath and think about a gay kid that's out there and sees in the newspaper this - on the TV, on the radio, hears his parents talking about it, and especially when his parents say, oh, well, that's a good law. We have to protect a businesses' religious freedom, which is really code for we have to protect their ability to discriminate against somebody. And I'm especially concerned about trans kids because, you know, just imagine for a minute a kid that's, you know, 14, 15 years old. And they are struggling to understand their body, to understand who they are, what's inside of them, what's outside of them. And now the legislature's saying - no, no, no, no, no. You have to go where you're uncomfortable doing something that is of such private dignity.
MARTIN: Have you considered exercising your economic leverage and just packing up and leaving North Carolina as a statement, as a symbol?
GOLD: No because I can't tell you how many people in my community have kids that are now 20 and 30 and 40 years old that have said to me if it wasn't for us in the community shining a light and saying that you can be gay, you can be successful and healthy, that you're not broken, how many kids that has affected. So I don't want to abandon my community. I'm not - we're not abandoning the ship, if you will.
MARTIN: Mitchell Gold. He's chairman and co-founder of the furniture maker Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams based in North Carolina. He also co-founded an organization called Faithinamerica.org. Thanks so much for talking with us.
GOLD: OK. It's my pleasure.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.