RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina has been pummeled with boycotts, criticism and cancellations in the wake of its new law on gay and transgender rights. Now liberals and conservatives in the state have turned to pummeling one another.
For North Carolina, a state that has long been considered one of the South’s most moderate, the intense reaction to the law, especially from business interests, has provided an ego-bruising moment.
But beyond ego and self-image, the legislation is exacerbating the political divisions in a state almost evenly divided between conservative and liberal forces. The acrimony is certain to play out not just in one of the nation’s most closely contested races for governor but also in the rare Southern state that can be up for grabs in presidential politics.
And while the state has been pilloried from the left, it is not at all clear who will be the ultimate winner in the battle set in motion by the law, which restricts transgender bathroom use and pre-empts local governments from creating their own anti-discrimination policies.
Democrats inside and outside North Carolina have been supported by a number of corporations, and the opposition looms large in a state with a long pro-business tradition.
Over the weekend, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., vowed that the Moral Mondays movement, which flooded the State Capitol with liberal activists in the past to protest the policies of the Republican-controlled legislature, would begin “a campaign of mass sit-ins at the General Assembly.” The protesters plan to take the action if the General Assembly does not repeal the bill before it meets again in regular session on April 25.
But Republicans have been sweepingly dismissive of the fallout. When PayPal said it would cancel its plan to open a global operations center in Charlotte and employ more than 400 people there, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said, “If our action in keeping men out of women’s bathrooms and showers protected the life of just one child or one woman from being molested or assaulted, it was worth it.”